Modern literary giant Hilary Mantel dies 'suddenly yet peacefully' aged 70

Hilary Mantel, who has died aged 70, signing a copy of her last novel The Mirror and the Light
Hilary Mantel, who has died aged 70, signing a copy of her last novel The Mirror and the Light

THE renowned and best-selling author Hilary Mantel has died aged 70, her publisher has announced.

HarperCollins said the Wolf Hall writer passed away “suddenly yet peacefully” and was surrounded by her close family and friends.

Mantel, who won the Booker Prize twice, recently concluded the ground-breaking The Wolf Hall Trilogy with the publication of The Mirror and the Light in 2020.

In a statement, her publishers HarperCollins described Mantel as “one of the greatest English novelists of this century”.

They added: “Her beloved works are considered modern classics. She will be greatly missed.”

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Bill Hamilton, Dame Hilary’s agent at literary agency AM Heath, said it had been the “greatest privilege” to work with her throughout her career.

He said: “Her wit, stylistic daring, creative ambition and phenomenal historical insight mark her out as one of the greatest novelists of our time.

“She will be remembered for her enormous generosity to other budding writers, her capacity to electrify a live audience, and the huge array of her journalism and criticism, producing some of the finest commentary on issues and books.

“Emails from Hilary were sprinkled with bon mots and jokes as she observed the world with relish and pounced on the lazy or absurd and nailed cruelty and prejudice.

“There was always a slight aura of otherworldliness about her, as she saw and felt things us ordinary mortals missed, but when she perceived the need for confrontation she would fearlessly go into battle.

“And all of that against the backdrop of chronic health problems, which she dealt with so stoically. We will miss her immeasurably, but as a shining light for writers and readers she leaves an extraordinary legacy. Our thoughts go out to her beloved husband Gerald, family and friends.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said it was “impossible to overstate the significance” of the author’s legacy.

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She added: “Her brilliant Wolf Hall trilogy was the crowning achievement in an outstanding body of work. Rest in peace.”

Born in Derbyshire in 1952, she was educated at the London School of Economics and Sheffield University. She lived in Botswana from 1977 to 1982 and spent time in Saudi Arabia. After returning to England, she worked as the film critic for The Spectator.

Her first novel Every Day is Mother’s day was published in 1985 and won prizes for her subsequent novels including Fludd and A Place of Greater Safety.

The runaway success of Wolf Hall, a door-stopper phenomenon, catapulted Mantel to fame when it was published in 2009.

She suffered from endometriosis and underwent a surgical menopause at 27, which left her unable to have children.

She lived in Devon and is survived by her husband Gerald McEwan.