Hilary Mantel has won the 2021 Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction for The Mirror and the Light.
This is the final novel in her Thomas Cromwell trilogy, eleven years after the first of the trilogy, Wolf Hall, won the inaugural Walter Scott Prize in 2010.
She receives £25,000, and will take part in a Borders Book Festival event later in the year to celebrate her win and mark Walter Scott’s 250th anniversary.
The judges of the prize said: ‘With The Mirror and the Light, Hilary Mantel has achieved the almost unachievable: she offers readers a novel that both closes a trilogy and also stands magnificently alone.
‘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.
‘The reader is absorbed into the particular drama, yet always alive to the universal themes. Through Mantel’s superb stitching and unstitching of Henry VIII’s shifting paranoias and Cromwell’s adroit manoeuvrings we learn as much about power and politics today as about power and politics at the Tudor court. In 2010 Wolf Hall bowled the Walter Scott Prize judges clean over. This year The Mirror and the Light did the same. How lucky we are to live in the age of Hilary Mantel.’
Hilary Mantel said: ‘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 and 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. I’d like to thank the judges for their faith in me, and also Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch for endowing this prize so generously and in a far-sighted way, because it’s proved a great encouragement to my fellow writers, and a source of great pleasure to the reading public.’
The Mirror and the Light beat Maggie O’Farrell’s Hamnet and novels by three Australian authors which completed this year’s shortlist of five books. Hilary Mantel receives a cheque for £25,000 and a photograph of a Borders landscape, taken by the renowned photographer and eldest Buccleuch son, Walter Dalkeith. She will also be taking part in a special Borders Book Festival event celebrating Walter Scott’s 250th anniversary at Scott’s home Abbotsford, near Melrose, between November 2 and 7 2021.
The 2021 Walter Scott Prize judging panel comprised Elizabeth Buccleuch, James Holloway, Elizabeth Laird, James Naughtie, Kirsty Wark, and chair Katie Grant. The prize was founded in 2009 to reward the best fiction set sixty or more years ago, and is open to novels published in the previous year in the UK, Ireland or the Commonwealth.
It was founded by the Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch to honour the achievements of Sir Walter Scott, considered to be the inventor of the historical novel, who was born in August 1771.