Hilary Mantel praised for 'magnificent masterpiece' The Mirror & the Light

Hilary Mantel praised for 'magnificent masterpiece' The Mirror & the Light

Critics have praised Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror & The Light (4th Estate) as "magnificent" and a "masterpiece".

The long-awaited, 900-page final instalment of the Wolf Hall trilogy is published on 5th March and an extract from the opening chapter was published by the Guardian on Saturday, opening at the execution of Anne Boleyn. 

Pre-orders are booming and the first reviews are in two weeks early, with Alexandra Harris in the same newspaper branding it “a masterpiece that will keep yielding its riches, changing as its readers change, going forward with us into the future.”

She went on: “She is still exuberantly rethinking what novels can do. Not since Bleak House has the present tense performed such magic. The narrative voice rides at times like a spirit or angel on thermals of vitality, catching the turning seasons, the rhythms of work and dreams, cities and kitchens and heartbeats.”

For the Evening Standard’s Melanie McDonagh, the book matches its predecessors and merits a third Booker win. “Hilary Mantel has achieved something remarkable,” the critic wrote. “She has turned Thomas Cromwell, one of the biggest bastards in English history, maker of the English Reformation, into a living, sympathetic, almost admirable, human being.”

For Allison Pearson in the Telegraph, the book is the “least perfect volume” of the trilogy but “that still makes it better than almost anything else of its kind”. She wrote: "Hilary Mantel has written an epic of English history that does what the Aeneid did for the Romans and War and Peace for the Russians. We are lucky to have it. As Cromwell approaches his end, cast off by an ungrateful master, Mantel pulls together the strands of his life into a sublime tapestry..."

There were no such qualms for the Times, where Johanna Thomas Corr wrote “99% of contemporary literature looks pale and bloodless by comparison”. Over at the i newspaper, Sarah Hughes hailed it as a “magnificent conclusion” and said it “lays down a marker for historical fiction that will set the standard for generations to come”.

In an interview with the Guardian at the weekend, Mantel said her career had always been building up to Wolf Hall. “As soon as I started writing, I knew this was what I’d been working towards, that confidence right at the beginning of having arrived where I should be.”

She added the trilogy was “like at last delivering what’s within you... an enormous shout from a mountaintop.”