Commemorating British writer Hilary Mantel, on Twitter and beyond

The loss of Hilary Mantel, the illustrious and widely loved British writer who died at the age of 70 on Thursday, has sparked several eloquent reactions from her fans.

Critics and fellow writers took the opportunity to once again marvel at Mantel’s gifts. New Yorker book critic Parul Segal wrote that the author’s death felt “like a theft of some kind”.

Historian Simon Schama described it as “one of our greatest writers. Poetic and profound prose with an unparalleled sense of the fabric of history.”

Novelist and editor Gabriel Roth called “Wolf Hall” “one of the greatest novels”, and brought a striking twist to its construction:

The word “genius” appeared a lot on Twitter, but the word “generosity” wasn’t far behind. It was clear that Mantel made a lasting impression not only on readers but also on the journalists who interviewed her and the authors who received her support. Hilary Kelly, for example, recalled the experience of losing an entire interview with Mantel to a “flawed recorder”, only to have Mantel volunteer to do the entire conversation again.

Novelist Stephen May was one of many writers who remembered Mantell’s call to encourage their work.

May wrote: “She has left a powerful legacy in her writing, but she has also led the life of an emblematic writer. Do the work, focus on it and help others when you can.”

Lucy Caldwell called it “one of the greatest joys of my writing life” when Mantell called unexpectedly to praise Caldwell’s novel These Days. “And even better was the excuse to text her and tell her how much her work had affected me – how long and so deeply I loved him.”

Mantel became a household literary name after the publication of “Wolf Hall” (2009), a novel that imagined the life of Thomas Cromwell, who became Henry VIII’s closest advisor. This book and its sequel, “Bring Up the Bodies” won the prestigious Booker Prize, making Mantell the first woman to win the prize twice. The last book in Cromwell’s trilogy, Mirror and Light, made it to the Booker Book Final.

Mantell told the Paris Review in 2015: “The contradictions and embarrassment – that’s what gives historical fiction its value. Finding form rather than imposing form. And allowing the reader to live with the mystery. Thomas Cromwell is the character that matters most to him. It’s an almost ambiguous case study.” “.

These books sold millions of copies, but Mantel had gained fame among critics and writers long before that, including other works of historical fiction. A Place for Greater Safety, a novel about the French Revolution spanning over 700 pages, was Mantel’s first book, but was not published until later in her career. When not inspired by history, Mantel often wrote about the supernatural. “Beyond Black”, a realistic novel, is set in a world of psychics and clairvoyants. Reviewing the Guardian in 2005, Faye Weldon wrote of Mantel: “She’s witty, sarcastic, clever, and I suspect haunted. This is a book of the subconscious, and where the best novels come from.”

Mantel memorably described what haunted her in her memoir, “Giving Up the Ghost,” which the New York Times ranked as one of the 10 best memoirs of the past 50 years. She remembered that one morning, when she was a little girl, she encountered a spirit of some kind in her yard. “She is a two-year-old girl,” she wrote. “It has no edges, no mass, no dimensions, no form but that which has no form; it moves. I beg of Him, stay away, stay away. Within the space of thought is within me, and it makes a sickly resonance in my bones and in all the cavities of my body.”

Writer Sam Knight was another person who warmly recounted Mantel’s generosity, and ended by suggesting that Mantel’s experience with the Supernatural might not end. “What a wonderful ghost you would be,” he wrote.

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