Hilary Mantel is the two-time winner of the Man Booker Prize for her best-selling novels, Wolf Hall, and its sequel, Bring Up the Bodies. The Royal Shakespeare Company recently adapted Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies for the stage to colossal critical acclaim and a BBC/Masterpiece six-part adaption of the novels will broadcast in 2015.
The author of fourteen books, including A Place of Greater Safety, Beyond Black, and the memoir Giving up the Ghost, she is currently at work on the third installment of the Thomas Cromwell Trilogy.
A Notable Woman: the Romantic Journals of Jean Lucey Pratt
Jean Lucey Pratt ed. Simon Garfield
All ‘ordinary’ lives are extraordinary, seen from the inside – and especially when a record is kept from youth to old age by a diary-keeper who is sensitive, humorous and self-aware, like the star of A Notable Woman: the Romantic Journals of Jean Lucey Pratt (Canongate) Edited by Simon Garfield, it’s fun and totally absorbing – you want to lean into the pages and chat to her. JLP is alert to grand public events – she took part in the wartime Mass Observation project - but she is superbly rueful in describing her private life. You know the result of World War II; what keeps you turning the pages is guessing which of her blundering boyfriends she’ll go to bed with next.
The Wives of Los Alamos
This captures a collective female voice in an ingenious blended narrative – not quite fiction, not quite documentary, but wholly engaging. While their scientist husbands were inventing weapons of mass destruction, the Wives kept house, living under military discipline in the New Mexico desert. Their families didn’t know where they were, only that they were ‘having their babies at a PO Box number.’ Were they loyal idiots? Would women agree to live like this today? If the scientists were women, would their male partners go along for the ride?
Reader, I Married Him
ed. Tracy Chevalier
The stories in Reader, I Married Him (ed. Tracy Chevalier, Borough Press) are Jane Eyre spin-offs by contemporary writers. They are uneven in quality, and as most readers will know Charlotte Bronte’s original, everyone will have their own ideas of where the plot and characters might be taken. It would be good to read these new stories along with the most surprising of all prequels, Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea.
The Wicked Boy
Kate Summerscale’s The Suspicions of Mr Whicher was a bestseller, and The Wicked Boy also focuses on a real crime and its aftermath. The story of Robert Coombes, a teenage boy who murdered his mother, should reshape some of our easy assumptions about the era. It is an accomplished feat of research and storytelling, and takes the reader from the East End to Broadmoor, to the battlefields of Gallipolli and finally to the Australian outback. It raises questions about madness and sanity, about when children should be held responsible for their actions, and about how we treat offenders, wrapping controversial issues into a tense, fluent narrative.