A few days before the launch in France, at Sonatine, of mirror and light (1008 pages, 25 euros), the last part of his romantic biography of King Henry VIII’s minister, Thomas Cromwell, Adviserwhose two previous parts each earned her a Booker Prize, Hilary Mantel passed away in Exeter, UK, on September 22, at the age of 70.
Novelist who has enjoyed tremendous popularity for her historical novels, the most famous series of which have 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, give up the ghost (2003, untranslated), suffer from a triple disadvantage: being “woman, from the north and poor”. She grew up in a Derbyshire town, which she escaped thanks to an already overflowing imagination. The family is dysfunctional, the secrets are 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 teachings of rigorous Catholic nuns, loses her faith but gains the surname of her stepfather, even though her mother does not marry Jack Mantel.
This is the moment when your body “tearing apart” and, if she takes refuge in reading, especially in historical stories, the endometriosis that makes her suffer terribly –especially because the pain is secret at a time when the body is not talked about– is not diagnosed. At the age of 19, the disease worsens. It would take another eight years – a time spent following her husband, Gerald McEwen, a geologist who traded the study of Sheffield’s limestone for the diamond-rich soils of Botswana – before a decisive operation would take her relief. return to England. . But the loss of her uterus and her ovaries condemns Hilary Mantel to having no more children than her books to come from her.
She, who wanted to be a lawyer and studied law at the London School of Economics, measured very early the misogyny of an environment that disqualified her, especially since her disabling state of health classified her as “hysterical and neurotic”. Postoperative hormonal treatments, like the rest of the surgeries she undergoes, complete Hilary Mantel’s traumatization, which escapes fiction more than ever. But if she thus invents a paper girl, Catriona, she is only one of the specters -undoubtedly the most intimate and the most heartbreaking- that mark her romantic work.
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