The Man Booker Prize was announced yesterday and — huzzah! — the winner was Hilary Mantel for her most recent novel Wolf Hall. Which I haven’t read yet but am looking forward to mightily because 1) It’s set in the Tudor era (the protagonist is Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII’s righthand man for a good while) and 2) My friend Mags gave it to me for my birthday.
But I’m especially excited because I was already a Mantel fan having recently read her French Revolution novel A Place of Greater Safety — and I have to say it’s the best novel I’ve read this year. It’s dense, rich, complex and so so so illuminating on the characters of three of the Revolution’s main players — Georges-Jacques Danton, Camille Desmoulin and that old villain from the Scarlet Pimpernel and so much more, Maximilien Robespierre. Mantel makes them human, even Robespierre. And reminds us that the Revolution wasn’t an overnight lop-the-king’s-head-off-whoops-let’s-call-in-Napoleon kind of event that it can become for us ignorant Americans. I became even more of a Mantel fan when I looked her up on wikipedia and learned that she has overcome considerable personal and medical challenges in order to write these big, absorbing, excellent novels.
Anyway. just figured I’d chime in and express my delight — and urge everyone to read Mantel. You can find her books, including A Place of Greater Safety and, soon, Wolf Hall, at the Monroe County Public Library, of course.