Living up to the bookies’ predictions, Hilary Mantel has won this year’s £50,000 Man Booker Prize for her historical novel Bring up the Bodies chalking up a raft of "firsts’’----the first ever woman and the first living British novelist to win the prize twice. And the first to win it for a sequel.
"You wait 20 years for a Booker Prize and two come along at once," she joked after receiving the prize at a high-profile champagne-soaked event at London’s Guildhall on Tuesday.
Her five disappointed rivals included the Kerala-born writer and poet Jeet Thayil whose debut novel Narcopolis was a strong contender.
Bring up the Bodies, which chronicles the downfall of Henry VIII’s second wife Anne Boleyn, is a sequel to Wolf Hall which won Ms Mantel her first Booker in 2009.
"This double accolade is uniquely deserved," said Sir Peter Stothard, chairman of the jury and editor of The Times Literary Supplement, describing her as "the greatest modern English prose writer reviving possibly one of the best known pieces of English history’’.
He pointed out that although the theme of her novel was a ``well-trodden territory with an inevitable outcome’’, Ms Mantel was`` able to bring it to life as though for the first time".
"This is a very remarkable piece of English prose that transcends the work already written by a great English prose writer. This is a bloody story about the death of Anne Boleyn, but Hilary Mantel is a writer who thinks through the blood. She uses her power of prose to create moral ambiguity and the real uncertainty of political life," Sir Peter said.
Ms Mantel (60) said she regarded the prize as an "act of faith’’ and a "vote of confidence’’ in her writing.
"I know how privileged and lucky I am to be standing here tonight,’’ she told the cheering audience.