Hilary Mantell, the first British novelist to win the Booker Prize twice and have sold millions of books around the world, has died at the age of 70, her publishers announced.
“We are saddened by the passing of our beloved writer, Mrs. Hilary Mantell, and our thoughts are with her friends and family, and especially her husband, Gerald,” 4 State Books said.
“This is a devastating loss and we can’t help but be grateful that she left us with such a wonderful job,” she added, without giving further details.
Mantell won a Booker Prize for “Wolf Hall” (2009) and “Bring Up the Bodies” (2012) and was nominated for another win in 2020 with The Mirror & The Light, the third in the trilogy.
The Wolf Hall Trilogy has so far been translated into 41 languages with worldwide sales exceeding five million.
The TV version of the first two books, starring Mark Rylance, Damien Lewis, Claire Foy, and Jonathan Pryce, were nominated at both the Emmy and Golden Globe Awards.
Rowling tweeted on Friday that “we’ve lost a genius,” praising it.
Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon said on Twitter that it was “impossible to overstate the importance of the literary legacy that Hilary Mantell leaves behind”, describing the Wolf Hall trilogy as her “crowned achievement”.
Her publisher called Mantell “one of the greatest English novelists of the century” whose works are considered “modern classics” and will be sorely missed.
Nicholas Pearson, former publishing director of the 4th Estate, said the news of her death was a huge loss to everyone who knew her and the literary world.
“Hillary had a unique look at the world–she picked it apart and revealed how it works in both her contemporary and historical novels–each book is an unforgettable weave of illuminating sentences, unforgettable characters, and brilliant insight.
“She seemed to know everything. She had been the subject of critics for a long time, but the Wolf Hall trilogy found her a long-deserving massive readership.”
Pearson added that Mantell had confided to him only last month that she was working on a new book.
“It is unbearable for us not to enjoy her words anymore,” he said.
Mantell published her first novel in 1985, Every Day Is Mother’s Day, a dark comedy about a mentally handicapped girl and her terrified mother, who communicates with the living dead.
It was based on Mantel’s post-college stint as a social worker but it wasn’t the first novel she wrote.
This manuscript was drafted in the 1970s, but only appeared in 1992 as a “place of greater safety,” drawn up in the years leading up to the French Revolution of 1789, and its ensuing bloodstained traces.
The writer did not shy away from controversy.
In an interview with Italian newspaper La Repubblica in September 2021, Mantell said she plans to take Irish citizenship, “to become European again” after Brexit.
In 2013, she was criticized after she was quoted as describing Prince William’s wife Catherine, now Princess of Wales, as a “model in a shop window” whose sole purpose was to mate.
Mantel was forced to defend her comments which she said were taken out of context and were meant to address the concept of princess created in the media.
She was also convicted in 2014 for her work “The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher,” a collection of 10 short stories including one of the same title.
Supporters of the former British prime minister denounced the book as “a sick book from a sick mind”.
But Mantell responded by saying that the story showed how easy it was for events to take a different path.
“There is no need for me or any writer to justify or explain themselves to people who only care about fiction when it feeds their faint sense of being hurt in some way,” she said.