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From the Archives 5: Hilary Mantel

With the recent passing of Hilary Mantel, it seemed to be a good idea to scour the archives for information about her visits to Suffolk Book League. I have checked and she came twice: in April 1994 and May 2010. I have not been able to find a review of the 1994 visit but the advance publicity in BookTalk number 681 discusses her then recent novel A Place of Greater Safety. Published in 1992, it describes the events of the French Revolution with a focus on the lives of Georges Danton, Camille Desmoulins and Maximilien Robespierre. BookTalk further describes how she wrote the novel from 1974-1979 and then left it in a drawer as she couldn’t get it published; it was only after an article appeared in the Guardian on writers’ unpublished first novels that her agent was persuaded to read it – whereupon it was largely rewritten, published and became the Sunday Express Book of the Year (1).

At the time of Hilary’s second visit, critical acclaim for her novel Wolf Hall was reaching its height and she read from the sequel The Mirror and the Light, making her audience among the first people to hear some of it which must have been very special (2). Naturally, her talk centred around writing Wolf Hall and her fascination with its protagonist: Thomas Cromwell. Comment is made on the extraordinary extent of her research for the novel, for example she checked the first recorded usage of some words before utilising them. The report of the meeting also notes that she was ‘delighted’ to hear that Ipswich was going to get a statue of Thomas, Cardinal Wolsey and donated her fee towards the campaign for this.

  1. Tuesday, April 20th, HILARY MANTEL WILL SPEAK ON ‘GROWING A TALE’. BookTalk, 1994 March/April, (68): 2.

  2. Hilary Mantel, BookTalk, 2010 June, (139): 7.

Janet Bayliss


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