Hilary Mantel has won the £25,000 Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction with The Mirror & the Light (Fourth Estate), 11 years after Wolf Hall won the inaugural award.
The third part in her trilogy was hailed by judges as achieving “the almost unachievable”, with a book “that both closes a trilogy and also stands magnificently alone”. Alongside £25,000, she will take part in a Borders Book Festival event later in the year to celebrate her win and mark Walter Scott’s 250th anniversary.
Judges, chaired by Katie Grant, said: “With consummate technical skill, married to the keenest ear for dialogue and the sharpest eye for rich and telling detail, Hilary Mantel resettles the reader at Thomas Cromwell’s shoulder for a psychodrama that begins and ends with a blade. The finale is both well-known and inevitable and yet—as the judges long pondered with astonished admiration—the suspense never fades.”
They added: “In 2010, Wolf Hall bowled the Walter Scott Prize judges clean over. This year The Mirror & the Light did the same. How lucky we are to live in the age of Hilary Mantel.”
Mantel commented: “When my publisher called to tell me I’d won the Walter Scott Prize, I was amazed and truly delighted. The prize has brought great hope to writers of fiction about the past. It’s rewarded some interesting and distinguished books, and it’s helped the reading public see the variety and the strength of the discipline.
“I’m so happy personally that The Mirror & the Light has won this recognition. It was certainly the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and I know the author isn’t always the best person to judge, but it seems to me to be the strongest of my trilogy of novels about Thomas Cromwell. It launched the trilogy in fine style when the first volume Wolf Hall won the Walter Scott Prize, and now this rounds off the many years of effort.”
The Mirror & the Light beat a shortlist featuring The Tolstoy Estate by Steven Conte (HarperCollins Australia), A Room Made of Leaves by Kate Grenville (Canongate), Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell (Headline) and The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams (Chatto & Windus).