Mantel Pieces by Hilary Mantel

On the 4th February 2013, two-time Booker Prize–winner Hilary Mantel gave a speech at the British Museum for a London Review of Books event. The speech was entitled ‘Royal Bodies: From Anne Boleyn to Kate Middleton’ and even now some people may remember the overwhelming press and public reaction to it. Some felt it was a scathing attack on the Duchess of Cambridge while others argued that, if read or listened to in full, it was an intelligent and witty observation of Royalty and how some aspects have hardly changed, especially for women. Whatever your opinion, it is a bold and assured piece from arguably one of the world’s best living writers.

‘Royal Bodies’ is just one of the treasures in Mantel Pieces; a non-fiction collection of some of Mantel’s contributions to the London Review of Books, where she was first published in 1987. There are personal essays, correspondence between herself and the LRB editors (which are a treat – some are even handwritten) and of course her reviews.

Review topics range from John Osborne, Madonna and Saudi Arabia, to historical Tudor figures such as Charles Brandon and Margaret Pole, who feature in her groundbreaking Wolf Hall trilogy. The London Review of Books and Mantel are a perfect match due to the publication’s long-form review format. Mantel is a conscientious reviewer, acknowledging in her introduction that reviews take time, and is effective at articulating why a book ultimately works (or doesn’t). Mantel’s research skills - used so often in her historical fiction - are evident in her ability to put a book into a cultural, religious or historical landscape, so that we learn about the topic itself, and not just her opinion on the writing.

Mantel Pieces is a must for any Hilary Mantel fan, but could equally be enjoyed by anyone interested in literary criticism, cultural studies or history.

Amanda Rayner is the returns officer at Readings Carlton.

Cover image for Mantel Pieces

Mantel Pieces

Hilary Mantel

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