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Mantel Makes History With $47,000 Costa Book Award

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Hilary Mantel
Hilary Mantel is the author of "Bring Up the Bodies." Source: Henry Holt via Bloomberg

Jan. 30 (Bloomberg) -- Hilary Mantel has won the Costa Book of the Year award for “Bring Up the Bodies,” the first time an author has received that prize and the Man Booker Prize for the same novel. She accepted the honor, which comes with a check for 30,000 pounds ($47,250), during a champagne reception at London restaurant Quaglino’s.

“I’m not going to apologize but I am going to say thank you,” Mantel said. “I’m not sorry, I am happy, and I shall make it my business to write more books which will be worth prizes.”

“We couldn’t allow the number of times it’s already been lauded to affect our decision,” said Jenni Murray, the chairman of the judging panel. “It was quite simply the best book.”

The decision by the nine judges was unanimous.

“Bring Up the Bodies” (Fourth Estate/Holt) is the second installment in Mantel’s projected trilogy dramatizing the rise and fall of Tudor statesman and fixer-in-chief Thomas Cromwell.

It’s 1535 and, thanks to Cromwell’s machinations, Henry VIII is now married to Anne Boleyn -- yet all is far from rosy. There is still no male heir to the throne and Anne is rumored to have been unfaithful. When the king’s roving eye alights on a new conquest, Cromwell must destroy the queen he helped crown.

The novel entrenches Mantel’s Cromwell as one of literature’s indelible characters.

Stage, Screen

It has already helped her become the first U.K. author to win the Man Booker Prize twice and the first to win for consecutive novels. Its predecessor, “Wolf Hall,” was a finalist in the 2009 Costa Novel Award. The BBC is planning a TV series based on the books, and the Royal Shakespeare Company will put them on stage.

“I should have known that Thomas Cromwell was bigger than I was,” Mantel said after the ceremony. “It’s as if he’s been revivified with a driving will to conquer all, in all media and all languages.”

“Her prose is so poetic, it’s so beautiful,” Murray said. “It’s so set in its time but it’s also incredibly modern. Her analysis of the politics is so modern, and everybody found that there were things that just stuck in their minds, that they would think about for a very long time. I have no doubt that I want to go back to it. I’ve read it twice and I want to read it again.”

Other Finalists

Mantel’s book bested four others in the contest run by Whitbread Plc’s Costa coffee-shop chain, which grants annual awards for books in five categories -- novel, first novel, biography, poetry and children’s literature. Those five then compete to be Costa Book of the Year.

This year’s competition included husband-and-wife team Bryan and Mary Talbot, whose graphic work “Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes” (Cape) won the Biography Award. It intertwines the stories of two father-daughter relationships -- those of James Joyce and his daughter, Lucia, and of Mary Talbot and her father, an expert on Joyce’s work.

The other finalists were “The Innocents” (Vintage), Francesca Segal’s retelling of Edith Wharton’s classic “The Age of Innocence,” which claimed the First Novel Award; Kathleen Jamie’s Poetry Award-winning collection, “The Overhaul” (Picador); and “Maggot Moon” (Hot Key Books), the Children’s Book Award winner by Sally Gardner, whose dyslexia saw her branded “unteachable” as a child.

Previously known as the Whitbreads, the prizes seek to honor the most enjoyable books of the year by authors based in the U.K. and Ireland. They have become a fixture of the London literary calendar since their creation in 1971.

Muse highlights include Manuela Hoelterhoff on opera and Ryan Sutton on dining.

To contact the writer on the story: Hephzibah Anderson in London at hephzibah_anderson@hotmail.com.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.

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