- Hilary Mantel has won this year's Man Booker prize with her fictionalised life of Thomas Cromwell, Wolf Hall. I'm delighted - are you?
- guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 7 October 2009 06.00 BST
So there it is: for the first time in a decade, the bookies' favourite has romped away with the laurels. Hilary Mantel's revisionist history of the life of Tudor arch-villain Thomas Cromwell, Wolf Hall, has won the 2009 Man Booker prize, and I for one couldn't be happier about it. On a remarkably strong shortlist, her novel stood out for me – as the most imaginative, the most ambitious, the most complete. She has taken a well-known – even well-worn – story and injected it with thrumming vitality: reproducing the sights, sounds and pungent smells of London in the 16th century; recomplicating characters that have been worn down, over hundreds of years, to attenuated, if gaudy, ciphers.
She's also, by the by, managed to sneak a 'genre' novel into the Booker winners' notoriously literary paddock - and recalibrated the arena of historical fiction in the process. The accusation that this year's shortlist was weighted too heavily towards the historical has dogged the debate surrounding it, but even those who found Wolf Hall mannered or boggy – and there were plenty who did; the Observer's literary editor William Skidelsky among them – agreed that Mantel's novel was a far more exciting proposition than the usual ladies-and-lances epics that the genre turns out. This is an acute and implicating psychological study of a man whose individual actions are sympathetic even if his trajectory is deplorable; whose mind is brilliant and beguiling even if his motives are black. It's subtle and compelling, and above all unputdownable.
Ahem! In my opinion, anyway. But enough of that - what did you all make of it? It was, after all, up against a really stellar shortlist – in particular, I loved Simon Mawer's The Glass Room, which offered an elegant, light-filled counterpoint to Mantel's scheming Tudor murk. Did the right woman win?