The Mirror and the Light

The Mirror & The Light is a historical novel by the English writer Hilary Mantel. Following Wolf Hall (2009) and Bring Up the Bodies (2012), it is the final instalment in her trilogy charting the rise and fall of Thomas Cromwell, minister in the court of King Henry VIII, covering the last four years of his life, from 1536 until his death by execution in 1540.

The Mirror & The Light
First edition
AuthorHilary Mantel
CountryUnited Kingdom
SeriesThomas Cromwell trilogy
GenreHistorical fiction
PublisherFourth Estate (UK)
Henry Holt and Co. (US)
Publication date
5 March 2020[1]
Media typePrint (hardback)
(1st ed. UK hardcover)
LC ClassPR6063.A438 M36 2020
Preceded byBring Up the Bodies 

Mantel's twelfth novel, her first in almost eight years, The Mirror & The Light was published in March 2020 to widespread critical acclaim, and enjoyed brisk sales. In December 2020, Emily Temple of Literary Hub reported that the novel had made 13 lists of the best books of 2020.[2] It won the 2021 Walter Scott Prize for historical fiction.[3] It is the final novel published in Mantel's lifetime.[4]

Plot edit

The Mirror & The Light covers the period following the death of Anne Boleyn in 1536. It describes Cromwell's ascent to the pinnacle of his riches and power, followed by his fall from royal favour and his public execution at Tower Hill in 1540.

Publication edit

Though Mantel had originally hoped to publish the book in 2018, it did not appear until March 2020. Mantel dismissed speculation the novel had been delayed due to writer's block, distractions caused by stage and screen adaptations of her previous novels, or because she couldn't bring herself to write Cromwell's execution scene. Saying the project had simply been difficult, Mantel added, "But that’s not an explanation that has any news value, so people are looking for a dramatic story of the whole process breaking down."[5]

When it was published in the UK on 5 March 2020, bookstores opened at midnight to sell the title. Initial UK sales were brisk, with over 95,000 copies sold in the first three days.[6] Henry Holt and Company published the US edition five days later, on 10 March 2020.[7]

Reception edit

The Mirror & the Light received mostly laudatory reviews from critics. The New York Times called it "the triumphant capstone to Mantel’s trilogy,"[8] the Financial Times called it "majestic and often breathtakingly poetic,"[9] and the Washington Post called it a "masterful finale."[10] The Times Literary Supplement called it "some of the most complex and immersive fiction to have come along in years,"[11] while the Guardian hailed it as a "masterpiece" and called Mantel's Cromwell trilogy "the greatest English novels of this century."[12] The Los Angeles Times called Mantel "unique among modern novelists in her ability to make the past as viscerally compelling as the present,"[13] USA Today said that "every page is rich with insight,"[14] and the Wall Street Journal called her Cromwell trilogy "a brilliant engagement with the exercise and metaphysics of power in 16th-century Europe."[15] However, the New Yorker criticised its length (754 pages in the US edition), calling it "a bloated and only occasionally captivating work."[16]

The Mirror & the Light was shortlisted for the 2020 Women's Prize for Fiction.[17]

Adaptations edit

Stage edit

Like the preceding volumes, The Mirror and the Light has been adapted for the stage, produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company with a script written by Mantel and Ben Miles. The play opened at the Gielgud Theatre, London in September 2021.[18]

Television edit

In November 2023, MASTERPIECE PBS and the BBC announced the television adaptation of The Mirror and the Light.[19] In December 2023, it was announced that many of the principal actors from the previous TV adaptation of Wolf Hall would be reprising their roles, including Mark Rylance as Thomas Cromwell and Damian Lewis as Henry VIII.[20] Filming began in late 2023.[21]

References edit

  1. ^ "THE MIRROR & THE LIGHT". 4th Estate.
  2. ^ Temple, Emily (15 December 2020). "The Ultimate Best Books of 2020 List". Literary Hub. Retrieved 4 January 2021.
  3. ^ "Hilary Mantel wins 2021 Walter Scott Prize". The Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction. 17 June 2021. Retrieved 30 June 2021.
  4. ^ Knight, Lucy (23 September 2022). "Hilary Mantel, celebrated author of Wolf Hall, dies aged 70". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 September 2022.
  5. ^ Alter, Alexandra (24 February 2020). "For Hilary Mantel, There's No Time Like the Past". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 13 March 2020.
  6. ^ Fisher, Luke (10 March 2020). "The Mirror and the Light shines with huge first-week sales". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 12 March 2020.
  7. ^ "Hilary Mantel's conclusion to Thomas Cromwell trilogy to be published in March". independent. Retrieved 11 March 2020.
  8. ^ Sehgal, Parul (3 March 2020). "Hilary Mantel's Triumphant New Novel Brings Thomas Cromwell Across the Finish Line". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 13 March 2020.
  9. ^ Schama, Simon (28 February 2020). "Review | The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel — 'majestic and poetic'". Financial Times. Retrieved 15 March 2020.
  10. ^ Smith, Wendy. "Review | 'The Mirror and the Light' is a masterful finale to Hilary Mantel's Cromwell trilogy". Washington Post. Retrieved 13 March 2020.
  11. ^ "The Mirror & the Light by Hilary Mantel book review - The TLS - Fiction". TLS. Retrieved 13 March 2020.
  12. ^ Merritt, Stephanie (1 March 2020). "The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel review – a shoo-in for the Booker prize". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 13 March 2020.
  13. ^ "Review: Curtains for Cromwell, as Hilary Mantel's glorious trilogy concludes". Los Angeles Times. 10 March 2020. Retrieved 15 March 2020.
  14. ^ Cha, Steph. "'The Mirror & the Light' review: Hilary Mantel brings Cromwell trilogy to a brilliant end". USA TODAY. Retrieved 13 March 2020.
  15. ^ Powers, Katherine A. (10 March 2020). "'The Mirror and the Light' Review: Thomas Cromwell's Final Act". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 13 March 2020.
  16. ^ Mendelsohn, Daniel (4 March 2020). "Hubris and Delusion at the End of Hilary Mantel's Tudor Trilogy". The New Yorker. Retrieved 13 March 2020.
  17. ^ "Women's Prize for Fiction shortlist announced". Books+Publishing. 22 April 2020. Retrieved 5 May 2020.
  18. ^ "RSC's Mirror and the Light receives West End premiere in autumn". Retrieved 22 July 2021.
  19. ^ "MASTERPIECE Announces Wolf Hall The Mirror and the Light". PBS. Retrieved 29 December 2023.
  20. ^ "Wolf Hall The Mirror and the Light Casting News". PBS. Retrieved 29 December 2023.
  21. ^ "Wolf Hall The Mirror and the Light - everything we know What to Watch". What to Watch. Retrieved 29 December 2023.

External links edit