A few days before the French release, on Sonatine, of Mirror and Light (1008 pages, 25 euros), last part of his romantic biography of King Henry VIII’s minister, Thomas Cromwell, The counselorwhose two previous parts each earned him a Booker Prize, Hilary Mantel died in Exeter (United Kingdom), on September 22, at the age of 70.
Novelist who has enjoyed tremendous popularity for her historical novels, the most famous series of which has been translated into more than forty languages, Hilary Mantel, née Thompson, was not destined to write.
Born into a family of Irish origin on July 6, 1952, in Glossop, near Manchester, she confessed in her Memoirs, Giving Up the Ghost (2003, untranslated), suffer from a triple handicap: to be “woman, from the North and poor”. She grew up in a village in Derbyshire, from which she escaped through an already overflowing imagination. The family is dysfunctional, the secrets many, and the shame ordinary. An office worker, the father, who lived with his wife’s lover for four years, left home when she was 11 years old. The little girl, who follows the teaching of rigorous Catholic nuns, loses her faith but gains the surname of her stepfather, even if her mother does not marry Jack Mantel.
This is the time when his body “falling apart” and, if she takes refuge in reading, especially historical accounts, the endometriosis which makes her suffer terribly – especially since the pain is secret at a time when we do not talk about the body – is not diagnosed. At the age of 19, the disease worsens. It would take her another eight years – a time she occupied following her husband, Gerald McEwen, a geologist who traded the study of Sheffield limestone for the diamond-rich soils of Botswana – before a decisive operation took her. relieved on his return to England. But the loss of her uterus and her ovaries condemns Hilary Mantel to having no other children than her books to come.
She, who wanted to be a lawyer and studied law at the London School of Economics, very early on measured the misogyny of an environment that disqualified her, especially since her invalidating state of health made her catalog as “hysterical and neurotic”. The postoperative hormonal treatments like the other surgeries undergone complete the traumatization of Hilary Mantel, who escapes more than ever into fiction. But if she thus invents a girl of paper, Catriona, it is only one of the specters – undoubtedly the most intimate and the most heartbreaking – which punctuate her romantic work.
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