Harry Potter author JK Rowling tweeted that “we have lost a genius” after Mantel passed away.
Scottish Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon said it was “terribly sad news”.
“It is impossible to overestimate the significance of the literary legacy that Hilary Mantel leaves behind. Her brilliant Wolf Hall trilogy was the culmination of an outstanding body of work. Rest in peace,” Sturgeon said.
Mantel turned Cromwell, a shadowy political fixer, into a compelling, complex literary hero. Cromwell was an architect of the Reformation who helped the king realize his wish to divorce Catherine of Aragon and marry Anne Boleyn. The Vatican’s refusal to annul Henry’s first marriage led the monarch to reject the pope’s authority and install himself as head of the Church of England.
It is a period in history that has inspired many books, films and television series, from ‘A Man for All Seasons’ to ‘The Tudors’. But Mantel managed to make the familiar story new and exciting.
Nicholas Pearson, Mantel’s longtime editor, said her death was “devastating”.
“Last month I sat with her on a sunny afternoon in Devon, talking excitedly about the new novel she had begun,” he said. ‘It is unbearable that we will no longer enjoy her words. What we do have is a body of work that will be read for generations.”
Her agent at the literary agency AM Heath, Bill Hamilton, said Mantel, who spoke of long-term pain and fatigue caused by endometriosis, had dealt “courageously” with chronic health conditions.
Mantel also wrote a memoir, “Giving Up the Ghost,” which chronicled years of ill health, including undiagnosed endometriosis that left her infertile.
“Her caustic wit, stylistic audacity, creative ambition and phenomenal historical insight characterize her as one of the greatest novelists of our time,” said Hamilton.
Before “Wolf Hall,” Mantel was the acclaimed but modest-selling author of novels on subjects ranging from the French Revolution (“A Place of Greater Safety”) to the life of a psychic medium (“Beyond Black”).
Mantel studied law and first worked as a social worker. She turned to writing fiction while living in Botswana for five years with her geologist husband Gerald McEwen.
The couple divorced, a split Cloak attributed to her illness and the infertility caused by the treatment she received for it, but later remarried.
Mantel also lived in Saudi Arabia for four years and returned to Britain in the mid-1980s. Her first novel, “Every Day is Mother’s Day”, was published in 1985. In total, she wrote 17 books, including non-fiction.
British journalist and feminist author Caitlin Moran also paid tribute on Twitter, describing Mantel’s ghost as “one of the most powerful and magical machines on Earth”.
“We were lucky she wrote as much as she did, but holy hell, it’s devastating that we collectively lost something so amazing,” she said.
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