Margaret Thatcher and the books of her time

I blogged about Margaret Thatcher and the music of her time and have seen quite a few articles since then about the British pop music scene of that era. One should recall the books, too. It was a grand time for booklovers.

P.G. Wodehouse died in 1975, but one could look forward to new books by  John le Carre, Len Deighton, P.D. James, Colin Dexter, Ruth Rendell, Gerald Durrell and a phalanx of literary fiction.

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World War II in books and films

Here's September 1 one day late: September 1, 1939, written by WH Auden in New York when Germany invaded Poland, starting the Second World War.

The war produced epic novels and movies. Casablanca was made in 1942, the year America joined the war after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour. Brief Encounter was made in 1945, From Here to Eternity in 1953.

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Financial dailies’ Net readers & Booker longlist

The Financial Times had 149,047 digital subscribers at the end of June, up 27 per cent year on year and 17,000 up from January, reports the Guardian in an interview with the Financial Times' chief executive, John Ridding.

The Wall Street Journal, in contrast, had 400,000 online paid subscriptions as of March 2010, says Wikpedia, citing a New York Times report.

And now about books: The 2010 Man Booker longlist is out. Interest will pick up when the shortlist is announced on September 7. Two-time winner Peter Carey (Oscar and Lucinda, 1988; True History of the Kelly Gang, 2001) is in the race for the £50,000 prize again.

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Wolf Hall: A Booker winner for story lovers

 Hilary_mantel
There's nothing arty farty about Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall. The 2009 Booker Prize winner is solid entertainment for anyone who loves a good story.

Set in the reign of Henry VIII, it charts the rise of Thomas Cromwell, a blacksmith's son who becomes the king's most trusted adviser and the most powerful man in the kingdom.

Now why should that interest anyone except history buffs?

I was surprised by how contemporary it is.

There are no "forsooths" and "begorrahs" here, no archaisms to look up in the dictionary.

Mantel writes in modern English and yet recaptures the old England beautifully.

It's like a postcard from an exotic place. The lords and ladies wear doublets and gowns, shoot bows and arrows, and marry partners chosen by their parents before they are out of their teens — but they are no different from us in their feelings, impulses and motivations.

This is a book about politics, sex, intrigue and ambition.

Henry VIII's England is like a modern dictatorship. We see his deputy, Cromwell, draft new laws to stifle dissent and get them passed by parliament.

We see the religious persecution under Cromwell's predecessor, Sir Thomas More, who opposed the Reformation and imprisoned anyone found with an English translation of the Bible.

Yet the ruler himself, Henry VIII, wants to be loved by his people. And it is remarkable the devotion he inspires.

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Hilary Mantel: First British Booker Prize winner in five years

Hilary_mantel Hilary Mantel became the first British writer to win the £50,000 Man Booker Prize since Alan Hollinghurst won the award for The Line of Beauty five years ago, in 2004.

Mantel's historical epic, Wolf Hall, about Thomas Cromwell, adviser to Henry VIII, had been the popular favourite to win the award despite competition from strong contenders like the 2003 Nobel Prize winner JM Coetzee, who had won the Booker twice, for Life & Times of Michael K in 1983 and Disgrace in 1999, and AS Byatt, the 1990 Booker winner for Possession.

The Indian Aravind Adiga won the prize last year for The White Tiger, the Irish Anne Enright won for The Gathering in 2007, the Indian Kiran Desai won in 2006 for The Inheritance Of Loss, and the Irish John Banville for The Sea in 2005.

Mantel is only the third British Booker winner in 12 years following on the success of Alan Hollinghurst in 2004 and Ian McEwan, who won the prize in 1998 for Amsterdam. 

Here is an excerpt from Wolf Hall published in the New York Review of Books.

And here's the buzz on Twitter and FriendFeed.

The Times reports:

"The hottest favourite in the 41-year history of the Man Booker Prize edged home last night when Wolf Hall was named the winner in a secret ballot by three votes to two.

"The judges described Hilary Mantel’s 650-page doorstopper about political manoeuvring at the court of Henry VIII as an “extraordinary piece of storytelling . . . a modern novel that happens to be set in the 16th century”.

"It is the first favourite to triumph in Britain’s leading literary competition since Yann Martel’s Life of Pi in 2002. Booksellers predicted that Wolf Hall would go on to outsell all previous Booker winners."

Mantel, 57, is now writing a sequel to Wolf Hall, called The Mirror And The Light, which will take the story up to Thomas Cromwell's execution in 1540, says Bloomberg.

"I am happily flying through the air," she said after winning the award. But she added on a more serious note: "'It's earnings. That may seem a very cold way of looking at a major award, but cost out what an author earns per hour and it's far, far less than the minimum wage. The return is not great. The money from prizes, welcome though it is, must be used to pay the mortgage," says the Telegraph.

The Guardian recalls:

"In an interview earlier this year, Mantel said she felt Wolf Hall was going to be her breakout novel…

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