2009 Man Booker Prize

We are delighted to announce that Hilary Mantel has won the 2009 Man Booker Prize, especially since we had already selected WOLF HALL as one of the Politics & Prose best books of the year for our upcoming holiday newsletter. Wolf Hall is an evocation of the reign of Henry VIII told through his lawyer, Thomas Cromwell. Imagine a cool book in which sex is only suggested with snide asides in conversation; and the intrigue lies in the skillful political jockeying.

Howard Norman says Mantel selected a brilliant narrative strategy; you have to read closely to figure out who is telling you what. What we have always admired about her is that she combines horror (as in beheadings -- not vampires) and humor so cleverly. She found a topic that fully engages her skill. Henry VIII would not brook opposition, and his punishments were gruesome. Mantel's style is understated and droll so even the squeamish can read on.

In awarding the prize, the jury quoted the words of Mantel's Thomas Cromwell, whose story this is, "The fate of peoples is made like this, two men in small rooms. Forget the coronations, the conclaves of cardinals, the pomp and processions. This is how the world changes."


The leading contender with Mantel was A.S. Byatt for THE CHILDREN'S BOOK, also an historical novel, and one about a period closer to ours, fin de siècle Britain leading up to WWI. Byatt reimagined a large group of aesthetes: writers, potters, puppet masters and more, all based on a group around E. Nesbit, the children's author. Those of us who have read Byatt's book also liked it a great deal.

Wolf Hall does not publish until next week, but you can reserve your copy NOW. The Children's Book arrived in the store on Tuesday.

-- Barbara & Carla