Wolf Hall, a historical novel about King Henry VIII's adviser Thomas Cromwell, won its British author Hilary Mantel the coveted Booker literary prize yesterday. "I can tell you that at this moment, I'm happily flying through the air," said Mantel, 57, as she accepted the honour at a ceremony at the Guildhall in central London. "I hesitated for such a long time before beginning to write this book - actually for about 20 years."
One of the most prestigious awards in English-language literature, the annual Booker Prize goes to the best work of fiction by an author from the Commonwealth or the Republic of Ireland. It comes with a winner's cheque for £50,000 (Dh292,295) and all but guarantees worldwide readership and an increase in book sales. Last year's winner was the Indian author Aravind Adiga for his debut novel The White Tiger, which has sold more than half a million copies and been translated into 30 languages.
Wolf Hall emerged the winner after more than three hours' deliberation by the Booker judges, who were split three to two on giving it the prize. The chairman of judges and broadcast journalist James Naughtie said the book demands "hard work" but yields "fantastic rewards". "Hilary Mantel has created what one of the judges has said was a contemporary novel, a modern novel, which happens to be set in the 16th century," he said. "We thought it was an extraordinary piece of storytelling."
Mantel, a 57-year-old former social worker, spent five years writing "Wolf Hall" and is currently working on a sequel. Set in the 1520s, it tells the story of the ruthless Cromwell's rise to prominence in the Tudor court of Henry VIII. The South African-born Australian JM Coetzee was in the running for his fictionalised memoir Summertime, while AS Byatt's The Children's Book was her nominated work.
Completing the shortlist of nominees was Adam Foulds for The Quickening Maze, Simon Mawer for The Glass Room and Sarah Walters for The Little Stranger. Previous winners of the Booker Prize include Salman Rushdie, Kazuo Ishiguro, Margaret Atwood, Ben Okri and Thomas Keneally. *AFP