September 23, 2022

Dame Hilary Mantel Dies Aged 70

London, 23 September 2022

It is with great sadness that A.M. Heath and HarperCollins announce that bestselling author Dame Hilary Mantel DBE died suddenly yet peacefully yesterday, surrounded by close family and friends, aged 70. Hilary Mantel was one of the greatest English novelists of this century and her beloved works are considered modern classics. She will be greatly missed.

Hilary is best known for her epic The Wolf Hall Trilogy of which Diarmaid MacCulloch, Oxford theology professor and biographer of Thomas Cromwell said, ‘Hilary has reset the historical patterns through the way in which she’s reimagined the man’. She won the Man Booker Prize twice, for Wolf Hall and its sequel, Bring Up the Bodies, which also won the 2012 Costa Book of the Year. The conclusion to her ground-breaking The Wolf Hall Trilogy, The Mirror & the Light, was published in 2020 to huge critical acclaim, an instant number one fiction best-seller and longlisted for The Booker Prize 2020 and winner of the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction, which she first won for Wolf Hall. To date The Wolf Hall Trilogy has been translated into 41 languages with sales of over 5 million worldwide.

Hilary was very active in the Playful Productions / Royal Shakespeare Company adaptation of Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies for the stage in 2013, which garnered much acclaim and in 2021 The Mirror & the Light was staged in London, adapted by Hilary Mantel and the actor Ben Miles who played Cromwell.

Following on from the success of the BAFTA and Golden Globe winning television adaptation of Wolf Hall, Playground Entertainment is in active development with the BBC on the adaptation of The Mirror & the Light to be written by Peter Straughan and directed by Peter Kosminsky.

Hilary Mantel was born in Glossop, Derbyshire, England on 6 July 1952. She studied Law at the London School of Economics and Sheffield University. She was employed as a social worker, and lived in Botswana for five years, followed by four years in Saudi Arabia, before returning to Britain in the mid-1980s. Mantel married geologist Gerald McEwen on September 23, 1972.

She is the author of seventeen acclaimed books including Every Day is Mother’s Day; Vacant Possession; Eight Months on Ghazzah Street; Fludd, winner of the Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize, the Cheltenham Prize and the Southern Arts Literature Prize; A Place of Greater Safety, winner of the Sunday Express Book of the Year award; A Change of Climate, An Experiment in Love, winner of the 1996 Hawthornden Prize; The Giant, O’Brien; Beyond Black, shortlisted for a 2006 Commonwealth Writers Prize and for the 2006 Orange Prize for Fiction, Learning to Talk and The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher. Her non-fiction work includes the memoir Giving up the Ghost; her collected writings from the London Review of Books, Mantel Pieces and most recently The Wolf Hall Picture Book, a photography collaboration between Hilary Mantel, Ben Miles and George Miles.

In 1990 she was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, in 2006 awarded a CBE and in 2014 she was appointed DBE. Hilary was patron of Scene and Heard, a theatrical mentoring project, Governor of RSC and President of the Budleigh Festival.

Dame Hilary Mantel will always be remembered as a truly original writer. She leaves behind a remarkable body of work which inspires readers around the world.

Bill Hamilton, Hilary’s agent at A.M. Heath said: ‘I first met Hilary in 1984 after she sent in the manuscript of Every Day is Mother’s Day. It has been the greatest privilege to work with her through the whole of her career, and to see all the elements that made her unique come together spectacularly in The Wolf Hall Trilogy. Her wit, stylistic daring, creative ambition and phenomenal historical insight mark her out as one of the greatest novelists of our time. She will be remembered for her enormous generosity to other budding writers, her capacity to electrify a live audience, and the huge array of her journalism and criticism, producing some of the finest commentary on issues and books. Emails from Hilary were sprinkled with bon mots and jokes as she observed the world with relish and pounced on the lazy or absurd and nailed cruelty and prejudice. There was always a slight aura of otherworldliness about her, as she saw and felt things us ordinary mortals missed, but when she perceived the need for confrontation she would fearlessly go into battle. And all of that against the backdrop of chronic health problems, which she dealt with so stoically. We will miss her immeasurably, but as a shining light for writers and readers she leaves an extraordinary legacy. Our thoughts go out to her beloved husband Gerald, family and friends.’

Nicholas Pearson, former Publishing Director of 4th Estate and Hilary’s long-term editor said: ‘The news of Hilary’s death is devastating to her friends and everyone who worked with her. Hilary had a unique outlook on the world — she picked it apart and revealed how it works in both her contemporary and historical novels — every book an unforgettable weave of luminous sentences, unforgettable characters and remarkable insight. She seemed to know everything.  For a long time she was critically admired, but The Wolf Hall Trilogy found her the vast readership she long deserved. Read her late books, but read her early books too, which are similarly daring and take the reader to strange places. As a person Hilary was kind and generous and loving, always a great champion of other writers. She was a joy to work with. Only last month I sat with her on a sunny afternoon in Devon, while she talked excitedly about the new novel she had embarked on. That we won’t have the pleasure of any more of her words is unbearable. What we do have is a body of work that will be read for generations. We must be grateful for that. I will miss her and my thoughts are with her husband Gerald.’

Charlie Redmayne, CEO HarperCollins said: ‘This is terrible, tragic news and we are filled with sorrow for Hilary’s family and friends, especially her devoted husband Gerald. We are so proud that 4th Estate and HarperCollins were Hilary’s publisher, and for such a peerless body of work. A writer to the core, Hilary was one of the greatest of her generation, of the age – a serious, fearless novelist with huge empathy for her subjects. Who else could have brought Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII and the huge cast of The Wolf Hall Trilogy to life with such insight, frailty and humanity but her? We will all miss Hilary’s company, her wisdom, her humour, and treasure her incredible literary legacy – she will be read as long as people are still reading.’