Of course it wasn’t just the power of the prize but when Wolf Hall won, Hilary Mantel’s life changed forever – a previously highly-regarded novelist was suddenly a literary juggernaut.
Mantel’s win, with the first instalment of her Thomas Cromwell trilogy, came in the face of formidable opposition – two former Booker laureates, A.S. Byatt and J.M. Coetzee, were shortlisted alongside her. Mantel had been a judge herself in 1990 (‘I don’t think I have recovered yet’) so she knew what was involved.
Her novel, with its rich historical weave and narrative immediacy, reconfigured what historical fiction could be. In the flush of victory, she professed herself ‘happily flying through the air’.