Hilary Mantel was born in Glossop, Derbyshire on the 6th July 1952, the eldest of three children. Her parents were working class Irish Catholics. Her mother had worked in the textile mills since the age of fourteen, while her father was a clerk.

At the age of seven she claimed that she "saw the devil standing in the weeds beyond her back fence" an event which might be related to the fact that it was around this time that the family made use of the spare room by taking in a lodger named Jack Mantel. Her father and Jack then swapped bedrooms, a situation that went on for four years until the year 1963 when Hilary was eleven when her mother decided to move from Derbyshire to Cheshire so that Hilary could attend a good convent school. Her biological father was left behind and she did not see him for the next forty years. Hilary did well at school and went to study law at the London School of Economics and Sheffield University. She married Gerald McEwan when she was twenty and soon afterwards began complaining of pains in her legs and stomach. The doctors decided that her illness was psychological and treated her with psychotropic drugs, and she abandoned the law and became a social worker.

Her husband was a geologist and in 1977 went to work in Botswana. There they lived for the next five years, followed by another four years in Saudi Arabia before returning to Britain in 1986. She was continually ill throughout this period until she diagnosed herself as suffering from endometriosis, had a hysterectomy, divorced her husband, and then married him again. As a result of her illness she also underwent hormone treatment, doubled her body weight and is now a size 20.

She began writing whilst in Botswana, although her first completed work, an historical novel set in the French Revolution, was rejected by everyone; her first published novel Every Day is Mother's Day appeared in 1985. She also produced occasional pieces of journalism and in 1987 she won the Shiva Naipaul Memorial Prize for an article on Jeddah, and after she and her husband returned to Britain she worked at The Spectator from 1987 to 1991 as their film critic.

Prizes and Awards

Fludd won the Southern Arts Literature Prize, The Cheltenham Prize and the Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize in 1990; A Place of Greater Safety was the Sunday Express Book of the Year in 1992; An Experiment in Love won the Hawthornden Prize in 1996; and Giving Up the Ghost: A Memoir was the Mind Book of the Year for 2004.


She was also the author of No Passes or Documents Are Needed - the Writer at Home in Europe which appeared in On Modern British Fiction, Oxford University Press, 2002