Featured Author - December 2022

This month we’re featuring one of the great historical fiction writers, Hilary Mantel, who’s trilogy on the life of Thomas Cromwell received critical acclaim, and who’s death this year was a significant loss to the literary world.

Dame Hilary Mantel began her literary career in 1974, after reading about the French Revolution, without ever initially planning to be an author. This novel would not be published for two decades and in the interim she wrote a contemporary novel, her first published novel, in 1985. She spent many years overseas and upon returning to England she was a lead book reviewer for the Guardian and film critic for the Spectator.

In 2009 she published her first Man Booker Prize winning novel, Wolf Hall, based on British lawyer and statesman Thomas Cromwell. The second book in the series, Bringing Up the Bodies: Fourth Estate, published in 2012, was Mantel’s second Man Booker Prize winning novel – making her the first female author to win the prize twice and the first person to win the prize for two novels in a trilogy.

We have several of Hilary’s books across our collection (here), below are the books in the Thomas Cromwell trilogy:

Wolf Hall

Assuming the power recently lost by the disgraced Cardinal Wolsey, Thomas Cromwell counsels a mercurial Henry VIII on the latter's efforts to marry Anne Boleyn against the wishes of Rome, a successful endeavour that comes with a dangerous price. Employing a vast array of historical characters, and a story overflowing with incident, the author turns Tudor England into a compelling piece of fiction. Mantel re-creates an era when the personal and political are separated by a hairsbreadth, where success brings unlimited power but a single failure means death.

Bring up the Bodies

The sequel to Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall delves into the heart of Tudor history with the downfall of Anne Boleyn. Though he battled for seven years to marry her, Henry is disenchanted with Anne Boleyn. She has failed to give him a son and her sharp intelligence and audacious will alienate his old friends and the noble families of England. When the discarded Katherine dies in exile from the court, Anne stands starkly exposed, the focus of gossip and malice. At a word from Henry, Thomas Cromwell is ready to bring her down. Over three terrifying weeks, Anne is ensnared in a web of conspiracy, while the demure Jane Seymour stands waiting her turn for the poisoned wedding ring. But Anne and her powerful family will not yield without a ferocious struggle. Hilary Mantel's Bring Up the Bodies follows the dramatic trial of the queen and her suitors for adultery and treason. To defeat the Boleyns, Cromwell must ally with his natural enemies, the papist aristocracy. What price will he pay for Anne's head?

The Mirror & the Light

If you cannot speak truth at a beheading, when can you speak it? England, May 1536. Anne Boleyn is dead, decapitated in the space of a heartbeat by a hired French executioner. As her remains are bundled into oblivion, Thomas Cromwell breakfasts with the victors. The blacksmith's son from Putney emerges from the spring's bloodbath to continue his climb to power and wealth, while his formidable master, Henry VIII, settles to short-lived happiness with his third queen, before Jane dies giving birth to the male heir he most craves. Cromwell is a man with only his wits to rely on; he has no great family to back him, no private army. Despite rebellion at home, traitors plotting abroad and the threat of invasion testing Henry's regime to breaking point, Cromwell's robust imagination sees a new country in the mirror of the future. But can a nation, or a person, shed the past like a skin? Do the dead continually unbury themselves? What will you do, the Spanish ambassador asks Cromwell, when the king turns on you, as sooner or later he turns on everyone close to him? Traces the final years of Thomas Cromwell, the boy from nowhere who climbs to the heights of power, offering a defining portrait of predator and prey, of a ferocious contest between present and past, between royal will and a common man's vision: of a modern nation making itself through conflict, passion and courage.

To see all the titles we have by Hilary Mantel, click here.

Some titles recommended by the author:

Other historical fiction authors:

Photo credit:

"Hilary Mantel portrait, by Nick Lord, at the British Library" by chrisjohnbeckett is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.