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Hilary Mantel, who became the first woman and first Briton to win the Man Booker Prize for fiction twice last week, has promised to bring her epic trilogy, set in the court of King Henry VIII, to a satisfactory close.
Her comments could have the bookmakers offering odds on the 60-year-old making it an unprecedented three Booker wins, when the final instalment – provisionally titled The Mirror and the Light – hits the shelves, probably in 2015.
For now, the focus is on Bring Up the Bodies, the second volume of her sweeping historical fiction charting the meteoric rise and equally dramatic fall from grace of blacksmith’s-son-turned-king’s chief minister Thomas Cromwell.
The novel, published by HarperCollins imprint Fourth Estate, won what is one of the most important accolades for fiction in the English language, and followed the Booker success of the acclaimed Wolf Hall in 2009.
Asked how The Mirror and the Light might differ from her two previous Tudor histories, Mantel told BBC’s Today programme:
“It’s going to be a complex book, I guess in texture more like Wolf Hall than like Bring Up the Bodies.
“I have four years to cover here, and what I want to do is hold up a mirror to everything that has gone before and also shed new light on it.
“What I’m trying to do is make three books that stand up independently and yet the third volume will have to contain them all… It will be complicated, but I’m not intimidated. I think I can bring it home in style.”
Mantel won a cheque for £50 000 (about R693 000) at a glitzy dinner in London’s medieval Guildhall banqueting hall, and can expect to see sales of Bring Up the Bodies surge.
Before Wolf Hall won the 2009 Booker, it had sold about 36 000 copies, but after the award its sales surged to about 600 000 copies.
Asked what she thought about the state of fiction generally, Mantel took a veiled swipe at two other female authors, who have dominated the best-seller lists in recent years and become multimillionaires in the process.
JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series made her the first author billionaire, helped by a record-breaking film franchise.
Meanwhile, EL James has sold tens of millions of copies of the erotic Fifty Shades series that critics have described as “mommy porn”.
“I think it’s a mistake to get too hung up on the sado-masochism business,” Mantel said.
“There will always be some kind of genre fiction – whether it’s whips and chains or boy wizards – making its way to the top.
“But what is important is there’s a healthy appetite for what people off-puttingly call ‘serious fiction’.
“I have also always thought fiction can be popular, but it can also be good and worth reading twice.”
Critics generally welcomed the decision by the Booker panel of judges to award Mantel’s novel the prize. She was one of six shortlisted authors and the favourite alongside Will Self for his modernist tale Umbrella.
“As it is, perhaps Umbrella would have been too radical a choice for a prize that, as the country’s biggest, cannot help but be a little conservative,” said Justine Jordan in the Guardian newspaper.