Hilary Mantel

Hilary Mantel, for those of you who are not familiar with her work, is one of the finest writers of historical fiction in contemporary literature. She is best known for her novels Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies, both winners of the Man Booker prize.

She is currently working on a collection of short stories on Margaret Thatcher.

In an Amazon exclusive this is how she described her office:

My office is in my apartment on the East Devon coast. Before my desk there is a big window, and beyond that a shingle beach and the sea. On my large pine desk there’s just my laptop, my working papers, and my diary, plus a silver dial that tells the time in the world’s major cities. I have a mouse mat with the Holbein image of Thomas Cromwell on it; my husband magicked this up from somewhere. I keep my pens and markers in a china pot with a picture of Henry VIII, which came from the National Portrait Gallery in London. On my left there is a whiteboard which I use to plan each chapter as I write, and also to scribble down any fleeting thoughts; if I’m elsewhere in the apartment it’s the whiteboard I run to, to catch a phrase I’m afraid might slip away. I can write anywhere, though; I long ago learned to write and polish a paragraph in my head. And I do a lot of work in my notebooks when I’m travelling, shuttling up to London on the train. I write in the car too; in the passenger seat, I should add.

I can imagine Anne Boleyn sitting in that wonderful arm-chair while Hilary Mantel – as she wrote Bring Up The Bodies – dialogued with her about her feelings regarding her husband’s mistress and her upcoming executing.  

Hilary Mantel

Photographer: Eamonn McCabe

“A statute is written to entrap meaning, a poem to escape it.”

― Hilary MantelBring Up the Bodies

“Some readers read a book as if it were an instruction manual, expecting to understand everything first time, but of course when you write, you put into every sentence an overflow of meaning, and you create in every sentence as many resonances and double meanings and ambiguities as you can possibly pack in there, so that people can read it again and get something new each time.”
― Hilary Mantel

19 thoughts on “Hilary Mantel

  1. That’s really interesting, Carol! Thanks for sharing. I love that ‘photo, and it’s always really helpful to get authors’ insights on their own writing and on what writing means. Now I’m interested in what her short stories will be like.


  2. Your recent posts are inspiring me to make my work space a little more customized and sacred. And I’ve always loved the idea of words revealing something different every time.


  3. Yeah, I was just thinking about that. I have the workspace, but my grandchildren would fling my papers and they would get ruined for sure. Soon they will be a bit older, so I will just conquer my space by hiding everything before they come up. Thanks for sharing, sweet lady.


    • Your welcome. You’re intriguing me. Giving me clues as to who you may be. Now I know that you have grandchildren and they are small. Hmmm….Anyway, thanks for reading my post and commenting. I appreciate it.


  4. Carol, I haven’t had much time to leave comments, but I’ve enjoyed your posts on writing spaces/desks. Your desk space is really inviting with the window. Love the inspirational quotes, too. You should have added one of your own to your desk post.


    • Thanks, Maddie. The idea of adding quotes came to me after I posted my own desk and decided to do a series on famous writer’s desks.
      The research for these posts is really inspiring. For example, I had read Wolf Hall but my research on Hilary Mantel brought me to a more personal level of knowing her and I try to share this on my blog.
      I’m glad that you’re enjoying them.


  5. I am pleased to see all those lights/lamps. Daylight is, off course, best and I try not to switch on until I have to, but I find getting the lighting right when I am working is crucial. Long ago, as a struggling student sculptor, my home had two rooms just like this with a slip of kitchen in between (shared bathroom on the floor below). I loved it, but it was four floors up and freezing in winter.
    If you haven’t read it her short autobiographical book, Giving up the Ghost, is brilliant and heartbreaking and taught me to question what I envy.


  6. I posted a comment, but it has not appeared. Apologies if I repeat myself.
    I love the profusion of lights. Daylight is, of course, best, but although I try not to switch on until I have to I find lighting crucial. I also love the room. As a poor sculpture student I lived in a pair of fourth-floor attic rooms just like this, freezing in winter and stifling in summer, but a lovely space.
    In case you haven’t come across it, Mantel’s very short memoir, Giving up the Ghost, is funny, heartbreaking and a cure for envy.


  7. Loved learning the tools that different authors use and thanks for the share as I am eager to check out her books.I also loved the quote about reading books over and taking something new from them each time. Great post! :


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