Hilary Mantel, the author behind the Booker Prize–winning Wolf Hall novels, died on September 22 at a hospital in Exeter, England. She was 70. “We are heartbroken at the death of our beloved author, Dame Hilary Mantel, and our thoughts are with her friends and family, especially her husband, Gerald,” her publisher 4th Estate wrote in a tweet confirming the news. “This is a devastating loss and we can only be grateful she left us with such a magnificent body of work.” An additional statement from 4th Estate said that Mantel “died suddenly yet peacefully yesterday, surrounded by close family and friends.” The critically acclaimed and decorated author of 17 novels is best known for her historical trilogy Wolf Hall, based on the life of Thomas Cromwell. She won the prestigious Booker Prize twice for two novels in the series — Wolf Hall and its sequel Bring Up the Bodies, while the last installment, The Mirror and the Light, was longlisted for the prize in 2020.
Born Hilary Mary Thompson in Glossop, Derbyshire, England, in 1952, Mantel moved to London to study law, but could not afford to complete her degree. Mantel then became a social worker in Botswana and Saudi Arabia before returning to Britain in the mid-1980s. She completed her first novel in 1979, a 700-page, mammoth historical work set in the French Revolution, though publishers rejected the book. Her second work, a contemporary novel, was published in 1985 to critical acclaim. She continued to write over the next few decades, but it wasn’t until Wolf Hall, published in 2009, that she saw widespread success. “No one could hope to touch the hem of Hilary Mantel’s biblical, visceral genius,” director and actor Emerald Fennell wrote on Twitter. “Sly, terrifying, ‘vegetable’ and profound. She was a visionary as remarkable and rare as Milton or Blake. What a terrible loss.”