Hilary Mantel dies: JK Rowling and Nicola Sturgeon lead tributes to Wolf Hall author after death aged 70
Tributes have poured in for legendary author Dame Hilary Mantel, best known for the Wolf Hall trilogy, who has died aged 70.
The Derbyshire-born writer, who was a regular visitor to the Edinburgh International Book Festival, won the Booker Prize twice – first for her 2009 novel Wolf Hall and again for its sequel, Bring Up The Bodies, in 2012.
Her publisher HarperCollins said in a statement that she died on Thursday “suddenly yet peacefully”, surrounded by close family and friends.
They added: “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.”
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Dame Hilary concluded her Wolf Hall trilogy in 2020 with the publication of The Mirror & The Light to critical acclaim, winning the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction, which she first won for Wolf Hall.
The trilogy, which charts the rise and fall of Thomas Cromwell in the court of King Henry VIII, has been translated into 41 languages, with sales of more than five million worldwide, HarperCollins has said.
It was later adapted for the stage and screen, with the Royal Shakespeare Company putting on productions of the first two books in 2013.
The BBC also adapted the story into a TV series, which was first broadcast on BBC Two in 2015, starring Mark Rylance as Cromwell.
Following the news of Mantel’s death, Harry Potter author JK Rowling shared a tweet from 4th Estate Books announcing Mantel’s death, writing “We’ve lost a genius.”
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted: “It is impossible to overstate the significance of the literary legacy Hilary Mantel leaves behind”.
She added: “Her brilliant Wolf Hall trilogy was the crowning achievement in an outstanding body of work. Rest in peace.”
Author and screenwriter Emma Kennedy paid tribute to Mantel’s “eternal gifts”.
She tweeted: “What a phenomenal writer she was. Eternal gifts that will be read for the rest of time. Go well Hilary. RIP.”
The organisers of the Booker Prize, also paid tribute. A tweet said: “Everyone at the Booker Prizes is deeply saddened to hear of the death of Hilary Mantel, four-time Booker Prize nominee and winner in 2009 and 2012. We send our sincere condolences to her family, friends and colleagues.”
Bernardine Evaristo said we have been “so lucky to have such a massive talent in our midst”.
Nicholas Pearson, former Publishing Director of 4th Estate and Dame Hilary’s long-term editor said: “The news of Hilary’s death is devastating to her friends and everyone who worked with her.”
He revealed she had been working on a new book, saying: “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.”
Praising Dame Hilary’s writing style, he said: “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.”
Bill Hamilton, Dame Hilary’s agent at literary agency A.M. Heath, said it had been the “greatest privilege” to work with her throughout her career.
He said: “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.”