Hilary Mantel made literary history today, becoming the first woman to win the Man Booker Prize twice, as well as the first English writer to win twice. (Only two other writers have won more than once--Peter Carey, an Australian, and J.M. Coetzee, who is South African.)
Mantel won in 2009 for "Wolf Hall," her big novel about Thomas Cromwell in Henry VIII's court. This year's prize was for "Bring up the Bodies," the second in what is a planned trilogy. In her gracious, pithy and brief acceptance speech--broadcast live on the BBC and beamed over the Internet--Mantel said, "Well, I don't know. You wait 20 years for a Booker Prize. Two come along at once."
The Man Booker Prize is the most significant literary award in Great Britain, with the winner receiving 50,000 pounds (about $81,000) and with all six finalists seeing significant spikes in the sale of their books.
Before announcing the winner, Sir Peter Stothard, editor of the Times Literary Supplement, spoke about the importance of good fiction and praised the list of winners dating back to 1969, adding, "a new name is about to join it." Cameras zoomed to Mantel, sitting in the audience, who looked down as Stothard spoke; his comment seemed to imply that she was out of the running.
But it wasn't a "new" name after all, but "another" name.
"I have to do something very difficult," Mantel said at the podium. "I have to go away and write the third part of the trilogy." She made it clear she had no expectation that she would some day be accepting a third Booker Prize. But who knows? Mantel, three-peat?
Here are our reviews of Mantel's prize-winning books: