Oddsmakers in Britain, who follow the literary prize intensely, had predicted Mantel would win and placed journalist Will Self as a close second. His novel “Umbrella,” about an elderly woman in a psychiatric hospital, will be published in the United States in January by Grove.
At the ceremony at London’s medieval Guildhall on Tuesday, Mantel walked to the podium to accept her award and said: “You wait 20 years for a Booker Prize. Two come along at once.”
In Wendy Smith’s review in The Washington Post earlier this year, she called “Bring Up the Bodies” “a darkly magnificent sequel.” The story covers Cromwell’s brutal efforts to engineer the beheading of Queen Anne Boleyn and Henry’s new marriage to Jane Seymour.
“Mantel animates history with a political and psychological acuity equal to Tolstoy’s in ‘War and Peace’ (and she might have the edge on Count Leo in politics),” Smith wrote. “Sardonic humor, particularly in scenes with not-nearly-as-dumb-as-she-seems Jane Seymour, leavens the ominous mood. Gruffly compassionate toward villains and victims alike, Mantel reveals their weaknesses and cruelties bundled up in a flawed humanity we share. The most flawed and human of all is Cromwell, who in the summer of 1536 defies his enemies and covertly rationalizes the bodies he has piled up.”
The other finalists for the prize included:
●“The Garden of Evening Mists,” by Tan Twan Eng (Weinstein).
●“Swimming Home and Other Stories,” by Deborah Levy (Bloomsbury).
●“The Lighthouse,” by Alison Moore (Salt).
●“Narcopolis,” by Jeet Thayil (Penguin Press).
Only two others have ever won the prize more than once: the Australian writer Peter Carey and the South African author J.M. Coetzee. Historically, men have been twice as likely as women to win the Booker.
Novels from such celebrated authors as Zadie Smith, Ian McEwan, John Banville, Pat Barker, Graham Swift and Martin Amis failed to make even the longlist this year. Instead, that preliminary group of 12 included four debut novelists. The judges considered 145 books in their initial selection process.
Historically, the Booker has sparked a tremendous boost in sales in Britain and around the world for the winning work. Every winner since 1996 has grossed more than $1.5 million.
The Man Booker Prize was established in 1969 and is open to writers from the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth and the Republic of Ireland. Nominated books must be written in English (not translated into English), and they must not be self-published. The literary award is sponsored by Man, an investment management firm.