Historical Fiction wins Man Booker Prize in Literature – Neil Wynn
18th October 2012
of the Man Booker Prize to Hilary Mantel, her second in a row, for Bring Up the Bodies, the sequel to her previous winner, Wolf Hall, has placed historical fiction firmly in the public eye. Sir Peter Stothard, chair of the panel of judges, said “she has rewritten the book on writing historical fiction” and some observers commented that history writing would not be the same again. Mantel’s two novels, part of a trilogy, chart the career of Thomas Cromwell; Bring Up the Bodies focuses on the Anne Boleyn and ends with her execution. Thoroughly researched, there is no doubt that Mantel’s novels offer some insight into the court and times of Henry VIII. But these novels do raise the issue of the line between fiction and history. Clearly the subject, compared to a story about the Mafia by Sir Stothard and referred to as “our national soap opera” by Mantel herself, lends itself to dramatic writing – but could the lives of ordinary people be handled in the same way? Are we fixated too much with the Tudor kings and queens? Perhaps our early modernists have a view on this – and on the books themselves? In the meantime, good to see history this popular – even if in the guise of a novel!