Hilary Mantel's most remarkable quality is not her skill as a writer, but her bravery. If it had been me, I would have stopped writing after " A Place of Greater Safety", her magical recreation of the French Revolution. Well, I would have thought as I saved the final draft, My work is done. I will never match this moment. The rest is silence .
But she didn't . She carried on, and some years later turned her attention to Thomas Cromwell. And even after Wolf Hall, she carried on and wrote the next thrillingly sublime instalment.
She won the Booker Prize twice.
And then completed the trilogy with the majestic and heartbreaking The Mirror and The Light.
And then she got nominated again.
"This book has been the greatest challenge of my writing life, and the most rewarding; I hope and trust my readers will find it has been worth the wait.” - Hilary Mantel
It really has been worth the wait.
I read the novel during the beginning of the lock down and adored it. Every single word held me utterly captivated and more importantly, diverted me from the horrors outside of my front door.
Cromwell has reached the apogee of his success. Anne Boleyn has been beheaded. Henry VIII is to marry the strangely opaque Jane Seymour and the succession is secured. But the dark palace corners are full of whisperers and we know tragedy is waiting for Cromwell, and that his fortunes can only fall.
Somehow, knowing the ending made the novel more tense and poignant.
The final pages, dealing with Cromwell's imprisonment and execution are almost unbearable in their sadness, and the final words resonated for me long after I had finished the novel.
Magnificent. Heartbreaking . Triumphant.