British novelist Hilary Mantel made history by becoming the first woman and first British author to become a two-time winner of the prestigious Man Booker Prize for Fiction for her book ‘Bring up the Bodies’.
She first won the prize in 2009 for the novel Wolf Hall.
60-year-old Mantel’s best-selling novel,Bring Up The Bodies,beat five other shortlisted titles including Will Self’s Umbrella,which was the bookmakers’ favourite.
Others in the contest were India’s Jeet Thayil (Narcopolis),Tan Twan Eng (The Garden of Evening Mists),Deborah Levy (Swimming Home),and Alison Moore (The Lighthouse).
Only two writers Australian author Peter Carey,who won in 1988 and 2001,and the South African J M Coetzee in 1983 and 1999,have achieved this feat.
Bring Up The Bodies chronicles the downfall of Anne Boleyn through the eyes of Thomas Cromwell,chief minister to Henry VIII. The judges said it “utterly surpassed” its predecessor,Wolf Hall.
Sir Peter Stothard,chairman of the judges,making the announcement at the awards dinner at Guildhall,hailed Mantel as “the greatest English prose writer” of modern times and praised her ability to re-cast one of the most familiar episodes in British history.
“This is a bloody story of the death of Anne Boleyn but Hilary Mantel is a writer who thinks through the blood,” he said.
Mantel described the process of writing this book as a gruelling experience,saying: “I can’t remember a time in my writing life when I was so beaten up by a book.”
She said when the going got tough,she would pause to draw inspiration from a portrait of Thomas Cromwell that hangs in her Devon home.
Mantel,a former social worker,first attempted historical fiction in 1979 with A Place of Greater Safety,set during the French Revolution. It was rejected by every publisher who read it and did not see the light of the day until 1992.
However,such is her popularity now that the BBC has snapped up the rights to Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies,and is turning them into a six-part period drama.
She is currently writing the final installment in the trilogy,The Mirror and the Light.