Hilary Mantel, Prize-Winning Author of Historical Fiction, Dies at 70

by 24USATVSept. 23, 2022, 10 p.m. 21
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But it was a long and arduous road to reach those heights, marked by struggles in childhood, illnesses so debilitating that she could not hold down regular jobs and an early writing career of fits and starts that denied her mainstream success until she was well into her 50s.

Her Cromwell books were the turning point. Enraptured critics said she had reinvented the historical novel as high literature, portraying her subjects not as cardboard characters from centuries past but as real people of contradictions and psychological complexity, relatable in any age. And readers were carried along by her storytelling power.

The critic Parul Sehgal wrote in a 2020 review of “The Mirror and the Light” in The New York Times that Ms. Mantel’s writing envelops the reader “in the sweep of a story rich with conquest, conspiracy and mazy human psychology.” Ms. Mantel was not just a writer of historical fiction, Ms. Sehgal said, but an expert in showing “what power reveals and conceals in human character.”

Ms. Mantel was born Hilary Mary Thompson on July 6, 1952, to Henry and Margaret Thompson in Glossop, a village in Derbyshire, and grew up in an Irish Catholic family. Her mother was a school secretary, Ms. Mantel wrote in “Giving Up the Ghost,” her 2003 memoir. After her mother left her husband and moved the family in with Jack Mantel, an engineer, Ms. Mantel took her stepfather’s surname.

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