For once the oddsmakers got it right. "Wolf Hall," Hilary Mantel's novel about Henry VIII's minister Thomas Cromwell, had been the bookies' favorite to win the 2009 Man Booker prize for fiction. The oddsmakers tend to be wrong more often than they are right, but this year they hit the nail on the head.
(The last time they got it right was in 2002 when "Life of Pi" by Yann Martel was both the projected and the actual winner of the Booker prize. The book went on to sell over a million copies.)
Mantel has led a varied life, both professionally and personally. Born in England, she has lived in both Botswana and Saudi Arabia. She is a novelist, short story writer, and a critic. Her works have ranged from memoirs to historic fiction.
She has been shortlisted for at least two major literary prizes (the Orange Prize and the Commonwealth Writers Prize, both in 2006), but today's receipt of the prestigious Booker prize is sure to catapult her career to a whole new level.
"Wolf Hall" was reviewed by Janet Maslin in the New York Times this week. Maslin called the book an "arch, elegant, richly detailed biographical novel" and noted that the "book’s main characters are scorchingly well rendered."