Hilary Mantel Announces Break From Historical Fiction

The announcement came at the Edinburgh International Book Festival

Hilary Mantel Signs Copies Of Her New Book The Mirror And The Light
Hilary Mantel is seen at a book signing for her new book 'The Mirror & the Light' at Waterstones Piccadilly on March 4, 2020 in London, England.
Peter Summers/Getty Images

This year has served as a kind of literary victory lap for writer Hilary Mantel. Earlier this year, her novel The Mirror & The Light, the concluding volume in her Wolf Hall trilogy about the life of Thomas Cromwell, was released to enthusiastic reviews. The trilogy isn’t Mantel’s only foray into doorstop-sized historical fiction; her earlier novel A Place of Greater Safety is set during the French Revolution. All of which begs the question of what Mantel’s going to do next.

On Sunday, Mantel set out her future plans; readers hoping that she’s readying another massive volume about a seismic shift in history might want to brace themselves. A new article by Mark Brown at The Guardian documents Mantel’s speech to the Edinburgh International Book Festival, where she described what’s next for her.

While she thanked her readers who had suggested other moments in history that might make for a compelling novel, Mantel suggested that she had something else in mind. “It’s lovely that people have the appetite for it but considering the pace at which I proceed, I would like some life before it’s too late,” she said.

Up next for her, she suggested, would be some work for the theater, as well as a number of short stories. Mantel was candid about her experience with the latter. “I don’t have a great strike rate with short stories,” she said. “I often find they fall over and I have to abandon them, but I’d like to see if there’s any potential there.”

Still, Mantel’s forays into short fiction have earned her plenty of acclaim. Her 2014 collection The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher was widely acclaimed upon its release. “You know you’re in the hands of a master storyteller when, as here, some curious yet minor verbal oddity, some seeming rhetorical blip, turns out to be so cunningly related to a story’s metaphoric unfolding,” wrote Terry Castle about the book for The New York Times. All of which suggests that, whatever form Mantel’s next work takes, it will find an enthusiastic audience.

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