“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,” read a statement Friday on the website of her publisher 4th Estate Books, which is owned by HarperCollins.
“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,” the statement continued.
On Twitter the publishing house expressed gratitude that “she left us with such a magnificent body of work.”
Her novels included the acclaimed “Wolf Hall”, published in 2009, and its sequel “Bring Up the Bodies,” published three years later as well as the trilogy’s final book “The Mirror & the Light,” published in 2020. The novels have been translated into 41 languages, and have sold more than 5 million copies worldwide. Parts one and two won the Booker Prize, and part three even made the 2020 Booker longlist.
Serialised by the BBC, the novels chart the fortunes of Thomas Cromwell, the blacksmith’s son who rose to be King Henry VIII’s most powerful adviser only to fall from grace and meet a gruesome end.
Nicholas Pearson, Mantel’s longtime editor, said Mantel’s death was “devastating.”
‘Phenomenal historical insight’
“Her biting wit, stylistic daring, creative ambition and phenomenal historical insight mark her out as one of the greatest novelists of our time,” said her longtime literary agent, Bill Hamilton, adding her death is “an enormous loss to literature.” He said Mantel, who spoke of suffering long-term pain and fatigue caused by endometriosis, had dealt stoically with her chronic health problems.
Mantel studied law at the London School of Economics and Sheffield University and worked as a social worker. She started writing fiction while living in Botswana for five years with her geologist husband, Gerald McEwen. Mantel also lived in Saudi Arabia for four years, returning to Britain in the mid-1980s.
Hoped to ‘become a European again’
In 2014, Queen Elizabeth II made Mantel a dame, the female equivalent of a knight. Politically outspoken and an opponent of Brexit, Mantel said just last year that she hoped to gain Irish citizenship and become “a European again.”
“Such terribly sad news. It is impossible to overstate the significance of the literary legacy Hilary Mantel leaves behind. Her brilliant Wolf Hall trilogy was the crowning achievement in an outstanding body of work. Rest in peace,” Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said on Twitter.
J K Rowling seems to have summed the literary world’s grief up in just a few words on Twitter: “We’ve lost a genius.”
(db/ AP,AFP, Reuters)