• Birth—July 6, 1952
• Where—Glossop, Derbyshire, England, UK
• Education—University of Sheffield
• Awards—(See below)
• Currently—lives in England
Hilary Mary Mantel CBE* is an English novelist, short story writer and critic. Her work, ranging in subject from personal memoir to historical fiction, has been short-listed for major literary awards. In 2009, she won the Man Booker Prize for her novel Wolf Hall and won the prize a second time in 2012 for the first book's sequel Bring Up the Bodies. Mantel thus became the first British writer and the first woman to win the Man Booker Prize more than once.
Mantel was born in Glossop, Derbyshire, the eldest of three children, and was brought up in the Derbyshire mill village of Hadfield, attending the local Roman Catholic primary school. Her family is of Irish origin but her parents, Margaret and Henry Thompson, were born in England. After losing touch with her father at the age of eleven, she took the name of her stepfather, Jack Mantel. Her family background, the mainspring of much of her fiction, is explained in her memoir, Giving Up the Ghost.
Mantel attended Harrytown Convent in Romiley, Cheshire, and in 1970 went to the London School of Economics to read law. She transferred to the University of Sheffield and graduated as Bachelor of Jurisprudence in 1973. After graduating she worked in the social work department of a geriatric hospital, and then as a saleswoman. In 1974 she began writing a novel about the French Revolution, which was later published as A Place of Greater Safety.
In 1977 she went to live in Botswana with her husband, Gerald McEwen, a geologist, whom she had married in 1972. Later they spent four years in Jeddah in Saudi Arabia—a memoir of this time, Someone to Disturb, has been published in the London Review of Books. During her twenties she suffered from a debilitating and painful illness. This was initially diagnosed as a psychiatric illness for which she was hospitalised and treated with anti-psychotic drugs. These produced a paradoxical reaction of psychotic symptoms and for some years she refrained from seeking help from doctors. Finally, in Africa, and desperate, she consulted a medical text-book and realised she was probably suffering from a severe form of endometriosis, a diagnosis confirmed back in London. The condition and necessary surgery left her unable to have children and continued to disrupt her life, with continued treatment by steroids radically changing her appearance. She is now patron of the Endometriosis SHE Trust.
Her first novel, Every Day is Mother's Day, was published in 1985, and its sequel, Vacant Possession, a year later. After returning to England, she became the film critic of The Spectator and a reviewer for a number of papers and magazines in Britain and the United States.
Her novel Eight Months on Ghazzah Street (1988), which drew on her first-hand experience in Saudi Arabia, uses a threatening clash of values between the neighbours in a city apartment block to explore the tensions between Muslim culture and the liberal West.
Her Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize-winning novel Fludd is set in 1956 in a fictitious northern village called Fetherhoughton, centring on a Roman Catholic church and a convent. A mysterious stranger brings about transformations in the lives of those around him.
A Place of Greater Safety (1992) won the Sunday Express Book of the Year award, for which her two previous books had been shortlisted. A long and historically accurate novel, it traces the career of three French revolutionaries, Danton, Robespierre and Camille Desmoulins, from childhood to their early deaths during the Reign of Terror of 1794.
A Change of Climate (1994), set in rural Norfolk, explores the lives of Ralph and Anna Eldred, as they raise their four children and devote their lives to charity. It includes chapters about their early married life as missionaries in South Africa, when they were imprisoned and deported to Bechuanaland, and the tragedy that occurred there.
An Experiment in Love (1996), which won the Hawthornden Prize, takes place over two university terms in 1970. It follows the progress of three girls—two friends and one enemy—as they leave home and attend university in London. Margaret Thatcher makes a cameo appearance in this novel, which explores women’s appetites and ambitions, and suggests how they are often thwarted. Though Mantel has used material from her own life, it is not an autobiographical novel.
Her next book, The Giant, O'Brien (1998), is set in the 1780s, and is based on the true story of Charles O'Brien or Byrne. He came to London to earn money by displaying himself as a freak. His bones hang today in the Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons. The novel treats O'Brien and his antagonist, the Scots surgeon John Hunter, less as characters in history than as mythic protagonists in a dark and violent fairytale, necessary casualties of the Age of Enlightenment. She adapted the book for BBC Radio 4, in a play starring Alex Norton (as Hunter) and Frances Tomelty.
In 2003, Mantel published her memoir, Giving Up the Ghost, which won the MIND Book of the Year award. That same year she brought out a collection of short stories, Learning To Talk. All the stories deal with childhood and, taken together, the books show how the events of a life are mediated as fiction. Her 2005 novel, Beyond Black, was shortlisted for the Orange Prize. Set in the years around the second millennium, it features a professional medium, Alison Hart, whose calm and jolly exterior conceals grotesque psychic damage. She trails around with her a troupe of 'fiends', who are invisible but always on the verge of becoming flesh.
The long novel Wolf Hall, about Henry VIII's minister Thomas Cromwell, was published in 2009 to critical acclaim. The book won that year's Man Booker Prize and, upon winning the award, Mantel said, "I can tell you at this moment I am happily flying through the air." Judges voted three to two in favour of Wolf Hall for the prize. Mantel was presented with a trophy and a £50,000 cash prize during an evening ceremony at the London Guildhall. The accounted for 45% of the sales of all the nominated books. On receiving the prize, Mantel said that she would spend the prize money on "sex and drugs and rock' n' roll".
The sequel to Wolf Hall—Bring Up the Bodies—was published in 2012, also to wide acclaim. It won the 2012 Costa Book of the Year and the 2012 Man Booker Prize. Mantel is working on the third novel of the Thomas Cromwell trilogy, called The Mirror and the Light.
She is also working on a short non-fiction book called The Woman Who Died of Robespierre, about the Polish playwright Stanisława Przybyszewska. Mantel also writes reviews and essays, mainly for the Guardian, London Review of Books and New York Review of Books. The Culture Show programme on BBC 2 broadcast a profile of Mantel on 17 September 2011.
In September 2014, in an interview published in the Guardian, Mantel confessed to fantasizing about the murdering of Margaret Thatcher in 1983, and fictionalized the event in a short story called "The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher: 6 August 1983." That story became the title story in her 2014 collection.
1987 Shiva Naipaul Memorial Prize
1990 Southern Arts Literature Prize for Fludd
1990 Cheltenham Prize for Fludd
1990 Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize for Fludd
1992 Sunday Express Book of the Year for A Place of Greater Safety
1996 Hawthornden Prize for An Experiment in Love
2003 MIND Book of the Year for Giving Up the Ghost (A Memoir)
2009 Man Booker Prize for Wolf Hall
2009 National Book Critics Circle Award for Wolf Hall
2010 Walter Scott Prize for Wolf Hall
2012 Man Booker Prize for Bring Up the Bodies
2012 Costa Book Awards (Novel) for Bring Up the Bodies
2012 Costa Book Awards (Book of the Year) for Bring Up the Bodies
2013 David Cohen Prize
She was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2006 Birthday Honours and Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in the 2014 Birthday Honours for services to literature.(Adapted from Wikipedia. Retrieved 10/13/2014.)
*Commander of the British Empire
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