Wolf Hall wins The 2009 Man Booker Prize for Fiction

6 October 2009

Bookies' favourite scoops prize

Hilary Mantel was named the winner of the £50,000 Man Booker Prize for Fiction for Wolf Hall, published by Fourth Estate.

Wolf Hall has been the bookies' favourite since the longlist was announced in July, with William Hill taking over 90% of all Man Booker Prize bets on her book.

Wolf Hall was picked from a shortlist of heavy hitting literary authors including Sarah Waters, A.S. Byatt and J.M. Coetzee - who would have been the first person to win the prize three times. Hilary Mantel was herself a judge for the prize in 1990 when A.S. Byatt's Possession won.

Wolf Hall is set in the 1520s and tells the story of Thomas Cromwell's rise to prominence in the Tudor court. Hilary Mantel has been praised by critics for writing 'a rich, absorbingly readable historical novel; she has made a significant shift in the way any of her readers interested in English history will henceforward think about Thomas Cromwell.' (The Spectator)

This is the first time the publisher Fourth Estate has had a Man Booker Prize winner. They have previously published three shortlisted books - Nicola Barker's Darkmans (2007) and Carol Shields' novels Unless (2002) and The Stone Diaries (1993).

Hilary Mantel spent five years writing Wolf Hall and she is currently working on a sequel. James Naughtie, Chair of the judges, made the announcement, which was broadcast by the BBC from the awards dinner at London's Guildhall. Peter Clarke, Chief Executive of Man Group plc, presented Hilary Mantel with a cheque for £50,000.

James Naughtie, comments 'Hilary Mantel has given us a thoroughly modern novel set in the 16th century. Wolf Hall has a vast narrative sweep that gleams on every page with luminous and mesmerising detail.

'It probes the mysteries of power by examining and describing the meticulous dealings in Henry VIII's court, revealing in thrilling prose how politics and history is made by men and women.

'In the words of Mantel's Thomas Cromwell, whose story this is, "the fate of peoples is made like this, two men in small rooms. Forget the coronations, the conclaves of cardinals, the pomp and processions. This is how the world changes." '

Over and above her prize of £50,000, Hilary Mantel can expect a huge increase in sales and recognition worldwide. Each of the six shortlisted authors, including the winner, receives £2,500 and a designer-bound edition of their book. This year, shortlisted authors will also receive a year's membership to The Groucho Club in London.

The judging panel for the 2009 Man Booker Prize for Fiction was: broadcaster and author James Naughtie (Chair); Lucasta Miller, biographer and critic; Michael Prodger, Literary Editor of The Sunday Telegraph; Professor John Mullan, academic and author and Sue Perkins, comedian and broadcaster.

Sales related to the Man Booker Prize have been exceptionally strong this year. More than double the number of copies of books have been sold between longlist and shortlist announcement, and from shortlist announcement to winner announcement, compared to last year.

The winner

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
HarperCollins - Fourth Estate

Henry VIII is on the throne, but has no heir. Cardinal Wolsey, his chief advisor, is charged with securing the divorce the pope refuses to grant. Into this atmosphere of distrust and need comes Thomas Cromwell, first as Wolsey's clerk, and later his successor. Cromwell is a wholly original man: the son of a brutal blacksmith, a political genius, a briber, a charmer, a bully, a man with a delicate and deadly expertise in manipulating people and events. Ruthless in pursuit of his own interests, he is as ambitious in his wider politics as he is for himself. His reforming agenda is carried out in the grip of a self-interested parliament and a king who fluctuates between romantic passions and murderous rages.

Hilary Mantel CBE was born in Glossop, Derbyshire on 6 July 1952. After studying Law, she was employed as a social worker then lived in Botswana for five years, followed by four years in Saudi Arabia, returning to Britain in the mid-1980s. Her novels include Eight Months on Ghazzah Street (1988), A Change of Climate (1994), The Giving Up the Ghost: A Memoir (2003) and Learning to Talk: Short Stories (2003). Her novel Beyond Black (2005) was shortlisted for a 2006 Commonwealth Writers Prize and the 2006 Orange Prize for Fiction. In 2006 she was awarded a CBE.

The winner of the Man Booker Prize was chosen from 132 entries, including 11 called in by the judges. The 2009 shortlisted titles were:

Author Title Publisher
A.S. Byatt The Children's Book Random House, Chatto and Windus
J.M. Coetzee Summertime Random House, Harvill Secker
Adam Foulds The Quickening Maze Random House, Jonathan Cape
Hilary Mantel Wolf Hall HarperCollins, Fourth Estate
Simon Mawer The Glass Room Hachette, Little, Brown
Sarah Waters The Little Stranger Hachette, Little, Brown, Virago

For further information about the prize please visit www.themanbookerprize.com.

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