The final novel of Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell trilogy, The Mirror and the Light, has won the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction. The first book of the series, Wolf Hall, won the prize 11 years earlier.
With high commendations from judges who remarked upon her latest novel as achieving “the almost unachievable”, Mantel’s book “both closes a trilogy and also stands magnificently alone”.
The £25,000 prize also means that Mantel will be participating in a Borders Book Festival at Abbotsford House this November to mark her win alongside the 250th anniversary of Walter Scott.
Discussing the book, the judges said about Hilary Mantel’s work: “With consummate technical skill married to the keenest ear for dialogue and the sharpest eye for rich and telling detail, Mantel resettles the reader at Thomas Cromwell’s shoulder for a psychodrama that begins and ends with a blade. The finale is both well-known and inevitable and yet – as the judges pondered with astonished admiration – the suspense never fades.
The reader is absorbed into the particular drama, yet always alive to the universal themes. Through Mantel’s superb stitching and unstitching of Henry VIII’s shifting paranoias and Cromwell’s adroit manoeuvrings, we learn as much about power and politics today as about power and politics at the Tudor court. In 2010, Wolf Hall bowled the Walter Scott Prize judges clean over. This year, The Mirror and the Light did the same. How lucky we are to live in the age of Hilary Mantel.”
“Amazed and delighted” when she found out that she’d won the prize, Mantel commented: “I’m so happy personally that The Mirror and the Light has won this recognition. It was certainly the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”
Other books shortlisted included Maggie O’Farrell’s Hamnet and Pip Williams’ The Dictionary of Lost Words. The entire longlist can be found here.
Words by Lucy Dunn
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