Readersforum's Blog

January 29, 2013

RSC to stage Mantel novels

Hilary Mantel

Hilary Mantel

| By Charlotte Williams

Hilary Mantel’s Man Booker Prize-winning novels Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies are to be adapted for stage as part of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s 2013 winter season, with some previously unseen material by the author included.

The books, published by Fourth Estate, have been adapted for the stage in two parts by Mike Poulton and the productions will be directed by Jeremy Herrin, the associate director at The Royal Court. The plays will run at the Swan Theatre in Stratford-Upon-Avon from next December to March 2014.

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December 14, 2012

Hilary Mantel: how I came to write Wolf Hall

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , , — Henry Greeff @ 8:14 am

Wolf-HallIt wasn’t that I wanted to rehabilitate him. I do not run a Priory clinic for the dead’

“Show up at the desk” is one of the first rules of writing, but for Wolf Hall I was about 30 years late. When I began writing, in the 1970s, I thought of myself simply as a historical novelist; I can’t do plots, I thought, so I will let history do them for me. I had an idea that, after the French revolution was done and dusted, Thomas Cromwell might be the next job. Blacksmith’s boy to Earl of Essex – how did he do it? The story seemed irresistible. I thought someone else would write it.

The 500th anniversary of Henry VIII’s accession fell in 2009. Dimly aware of this, but not yet focused, in 2005 I proposed to my publisher a novel – just one, mind – about his great minister. Still no one had told the story. The Tudor scholar GR Eltonhad established Cromwell as a statesman of the first rank, but Elton’s work had done nothing for his popular image. Holbein’s portrait shows a man of undistinguished ugliness, with a hard, flat, sceptical eye. In A Man for All Seasons, he is the villain who casually holds another man’s hand in a candle flame.

Biographies of him are cut up into topics: “Finance”, “Religion” and so on. He seemed not to have a private life.

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October 19, 2012

Booker Prize double winner Hilary Mantel: Cromwell is a work in progress

Double Man Booker winner Hilary Mantel explains how Henry VIII’s chief minister took shape as she wrote him into life, and how what began with ‘Wolf Hall’ became not one novel but three.

By Hilary Mantel

About the year 1533 Hans Holbein painted a portrait of Thomas Cromwell, a lawyer in the service of King Henry VIII. Hans (as he was casually called) was not yet established as Henry’s court painter, but drew his sitters from minor courtiers and the Hanseatic merchant community. He was not seen as a remote genius, more as a jobbing decorator who you would call in to design a tassel, a gold cup, a salt cellar or the scenery for a pageant. Thomas Cromwell had not yet acquired his status as Henry’s chief minister; as the paper on his desk informs us, he was Master of the Jewel House. A gregarious, cosmopolitan man who had spent time in Italy and the Low Countries, he was probably better placed to know Holbein’s worth than many of his courtier contemporaries. The politician and the painter, both due to rise rapidly at Henry’s court, were bound together by a network of shared friends and shared interests.

But the portrait is not a friendly one. Holbein would soon paint The Ambassadors, rich and splendid and symbol-laden, one of the icons of Western art. There are no metaphors in his Cromwell picture. There is no echo of his portrait of Thomas More: none of that swift intelligence, intensity, engagement with the viewer. What you see is what you get. Cromwell looks like a man hard to reach and hard to impress. He does not invite you to conversation. His posture is attentive, though, as if he might be listening to someone or something beyond the frame.

Of course, a Tudor statesman who commissioned his portrait didn’t want to look bonny. He wanted to look powerful; he was the hand, the arm, of the state. Even so, when (in my novel Wolf Hall) the portrait is unveiled, Cromwell himself is taken aback. “I look like a murderer,” he exclaims. His son Gregory says, “Didn’t you know?”

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October 16, 2012

Mantel bookies’ favourite to win Booker

16.10.12 | Katie Allen

Hilary Mantel, winner of the 2009 Man Booker Prize, has been picked as the favourite to win 2012’s prize, according to bookmakers William Hill.

Mantel’s sequel to Wolf Hall, Bring Up the Bodies (Fourth Estate) has been allocated odds of 6/4, just ahead of Will Self’s Umbrella (Bloomsbury). Both authors have been favourites during the run-up to the prize.

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May 28, 2012

Digested read: Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , , , — Henry Greeff @ 11:14 am

Cromwell finds maintaining this self-effacing Stephen Fry shtick annoying.

In which I, Thomas Cromwell, return with my exhausting present tense to dissolve the monasteries. Silly old me!.

 By John Crace

“It is a great honour to receive you here at Wolf Hall, your majesty,” says old Sir John Seymour, fresh from tupping his daughter-in-law’s quinny. “Though I had rather been expecting you some three years ago, when the first book came out.”
Thomas Cromwell observes Henry’s eyes lingering on Jane Seymour’s heaving, virginal bosom. “The King is tiring of Anne and there is no male successor,” he thinks to himself. “A wise Master Secretary would do well to prepare the way for a third marriage –”
“A wiser Master Secretary would do better to ruminate for a while on the death of his wife and daughters, and conduct imaginary conversations with Sir Thomas More in which he expresses regret that the former Lord Chancellor refused to swear the oath of succession and thus condemned himself to the block,” Hilary interrupts urgently.
“And why should I want to do that?’ Cromwell snaps, his mind already on how much money he can make from the dissolution of the monasteries.
“Because I’m trying to rewrite you as Mr Nice Guy, you moron,” Hilary says. “Instead of the hard bastard you undoubtedly are.”

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