Hilary Mantel’s loss sounds like a theft of some sort. All those books we still need from her. That grandiose imagination, that subtle understanding of power. From the last book in the trilogy: “This is what life does to you in the end; it arranges a battle you cannot win.”
– Parul Sehgal (@parul_sehgal) September 23, 2022
Historian Simon Schama described it as “one of our greatest writers. Poetic and profound prose with an unparalleled sense of the fabric of history.”
Shattered to learn of the death of Hilary Mantell – one of our greatest writers; Poetic and profound prose with an unparalleled sense of the texture of history.
– Simon Schama (@simon_schama) September 23, 2022
Novelist and editor Gabriel Roth called “Wolf Hall” “one of the greatest novels”, and brought a striking twist to its construction:
Wolf Hall is a novel that makes the novel the story of building the modern state, which is the condition for the existence of the novel as a form, and apart from it, it turns that story into a metaphor for writing the novel; It is one of the greatest novels
– Gabriel Roth (@gabrielroth) September 23, 2022
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.
I am so sad that Hilary Mantel passed away. I’m one of many journalists she’s been absolutely beautiful with. When I interviewed her at home a few years ago, the main things that stood out were how scary she was (I was afraid to look at my question paper)…
– Leafarbuthnot (leafarbuthnot) September 23, 2022
As a writer and person like no other.
I once lost an entire interview with Hilary Mantel – at the height of Cromwell’s mania – to a faulty tape recorder. She said, “Oh no problem! It would be so much fun to do it again,” and asked me to call her back after dinner.
What a huge loss. https://t.co/dYRme8MeO3
– Hillary Kelly (@HillaryKelly) September 23, 2022
Novelist Stephen May was one of many writers who remembered Mantell’s call to encourage their work.
Short thread: Heartbroken. I’ve had a wonderful few days writing. One of the best things was getting an email out of the blue from Hilary Mantel saying she loved my last book that she read in proof form. Honestly, I almost fainted on my lap
– Stephen May (@Stephen_May1) September 23, 2022
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.
Hilary Mantel was the only person who ever sent me an email that left me in tears, when I loved my book. She was my favorite writer: what I was most afraid of reading, because what was the point, given her sentences, her soul and her mind. What a wonderful ghost she would be.
– Sam Knight (@samknightwrites) September 23, 2022
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