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Hilary Mantel becomes first woman to win literary prize twice

By Catriona Davies, CNN
updated 9:04 AM EDT, Wed October 17, 2012
Hilary Mantel is the first woman and the first British author to win the Man Booker Prize twice.
Hilary Mantel is the first woman and the first British author to win the Man Booker Prize twice.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Hilary Mantel is first woman and first British author to win Man Booker Prize twice
  • Her winning book "Bring up the Bodies" is sequel to 2009 winner "Wolf Hall"
  • $81,000 prize is best-known English-language literary prize outside United States

London (CNN) -- British author Hilary Mantel has become the first woman to win the Man Booker Prize twice.

Mantel, 60, won the prestigious £50,000 ($81,000) literary prize Tuesday for her novel "Bring up the Bodies," the second in a historical trilogy set during the reign of King Henry VIII.

She also won the prize in 2009 for "Wolf Hall," the first novel in the trilogy.

"You wait 20 years for a Booker Prize and then two come along at once," she told reporters, adding, "I feel a bit weak at the knees to be honest."

You wait 20 years for a Booker Prize and then two come along at once.
Hilary Mantel

"This double accolade is uniquely deserved," said Sir Peter Stothard, chairman of the judging panel and editor of the Times Literary Supplement. "In 'Bring up the Bodies,' our greatest modern writer retells the origins of modern England."

Mantel is the third author to win the prize twice, alongside South-African-born J.M. Coetzee and Australian Peter Carey.

This year, she overcome competition from 144 other entries, including the shortlisted, "Umbrella" by Will Self; "Narcopolis" by Jeet Thayil; "Swimming Home" by Deborah Levy; "The Lighthouse" by Alison Moore; and "The Garden of Evening Mists" by Tan Twan Eng.

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A former social worker who lived in Botswana and Saudi Arabia before returning to the U.K., she did not have her first novel published until she was in her mid-30s.

She said the idea for her trilogy about Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII's chief minister, first came to her when she was in her 20s, but she was not in a position to write it for more than three decades.

Established in 1969, the Man Booker is the best-known fiction prize for English-language authors from Commonwealth countries and Ireland. It is intended to reward literary heavyweights rather than bestsellers.

While sales are not a factor in the judges' decision, authors typically experience a dramatic increase in sales after receiving the prize.

Weekly sales in the U.K. of last year's winner, "Sense of an Ending" by Julian Barnes, jumped from 2,535 to 14,534 -- an increase of 473% -- in the week it won, according to Nielsen Bookscan.

In the week she won the prize in 2009, Mantel enjoyed a 463% rise in weekly sales and more than 600,000 in total sales in the U.K.

She joked then that she would spend the prize money on "sex, drugs and rock and roll."

This time around, she said she would probably spend it on her pension, although she said she still has writing years left in her, despite suffering "misadventure" since her first win and illness that stopped her from writing for most of 2010.

"Bring up the Bodies" and "Wolf Hall" are being adapted into a six-part series for the BBC and stage plays. Mantel said she had turned down offers for movie adapations because she felt the plot was too complex and better suited to a television series.

She is also at work on the third novel in her trilogy, which she plans to call, "The Mirror and the Light."

"When I start writing again, I will forget all this (the award ceremony) because every day has its own problems and every day you feel like a beginner."

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