Help! I need an intelligent question to ask...

(34 Posts)

Hilary Mantel! I am going to a talk she is giving tomorrow and as DH is helping to organise, I may (please, please, please God) get to meet her. I expect we will be able to ask questions after the talk (about her new book) and if I do meet her 'properly' afterwards I would like to say something that doesn't make me look a complete lemon.

So, any suggestions for questions about her work, and also general chit chat? I'd like to ask her who in current public life she thinks most resemble Thomas Cromwell and Anne Boleyn, but I bet she won't answer that one!

If I do meet her, I'll report back...

LEMisdisappointed Thu 19-Sep-13 18:27:06

Who is she?

Clearly i am not the person you are looking for smile

LEM She's won the Man Booker prize twice - she writes mainly historical fiction. Worth checking out.

When I say 'fiction' I mean based on real events. So her interpretation of them, if you see what I mean.

LEMisdisappointed Thu 19-Sep-13 18:52:58

Ah, she wrote wolf hall didn't she? not that ive read it, maybe i'll have a go - i liked the White Queen.

I should say, be yourself smile

LaQueenForADay Thu 19-Sep-13 21:09:57

Lucky, lucky you.

Ask her, that considering so little is known of the first 25 (or so) years of Thomas Cromwell's life, did she make a conscious decision to make him more romantically sympathetic and acceptable to contemporary readers?

Because I don't know a woman who has read Wolf Hall who hasn't loved him wink

letsgetreadytoramble Thu 19-Sep-13 21:12:42

Maybe ask her if she found it tricky to get a balance between writing an engaging story and creating a convincing historical backdrop. I found that both her books tended to include a bit too much historical detail, such as the scenes in the courtroom, and would be interested to know if she struggled with whether to include certain details or not. Lucky you getting to meet her!

nicename Thu 19-Sep-13 21:14:49

Can you see of that's her real voice?

I imagine she'd probably not want a really deep and meaningful question. I'd love it if someone asked me where I got my shoes from (shallow).

I really don't like historical novels. "As she looked into the mirror, Elizabeth 1 thought 'I really should chop off that peaky Maryt's head', now, where's my face-whitener and wig..."

That is so unhelpful. Sorry. Off for more wine (tough day).

LaQueenForADay Thu 19-Sep-13 21:19:19

Or, you could ask her why she decided to write Wolf Hall, in the third person present tense?

I hadn't really come across this style of writing before, and found it made much of the book quite difficult to access. Especially as she often doesn't readily identify which character she is focusing on, and you have to kinda work it out for yourself.

TunipTheUnconquerable Thu 19-Sep-13 21:27:56

Ask her if she watched The White Queen.

TunipTheUnconquerable Thu 19-Sep-13 21:29:30

Also get her to play 'shag, marry or dump' with the following: Thomas Wolsey, Thomas More, Thomas Howard 3rd Duke of Norfolk.
(But not Thomas Cromwell because that would be too easy.)

Oh thank you, some good ideas here! I think I saw Hilary a few months ago in a park (she lives locally) and I recognised her but didn't twig that it was her until afterwards, and I smiled in a vague 'I recognise you' way and she gave me a nice smile back. So I think that she's pretty friendly.

She's obviously a very thoughtful person and must have a great deal of empathy to put herself in someone else's shoes so convincingly. I just am rather in awe of that amount of talent. Sometimes I would look up from Wolf Hall or Bring Up the Bodies and feel as if I'd been time travelling.

Turnip - horrible choice!

Marry Wolsey

Shag Howard (Cromwell if I'm allowed)

Dump More


LaQueenForADay Thu 19-Sep-13 21:59:28

If I agreed to shag Thomas Moore [shudder] couldn't I be allowed just a really quick shag with Thom Crom, seening as I'd been a good girl?

LaQueenForADay Thu 19-Sep-13 22:00:48

Can anyone explain exactly why Thom Crom is so damned sexheh???

Our last book club meeting degenerated into a close analysis of this very topic, with no definitive answer...

Any takers?

TunipTheUnconquerable Thu 19-Sep-13 22:05:09

I'm not convinced Crom was really as lovely or More as horrible as Mantel paints them.
Yes yes I know More burned heretics, but it's just what people did in those days....

(Also, Mantel just takes all the stories and rumours about More and presents them as if they're true, which she's perfectly allowed to do, but it doesn't mean they were.) <sticks up for More>

TunipTheUnconquerable Thu 19-Sep-13 22:07:27

Good question LaQ.
I think it's a combination of him being tremendously powerful, and having that ability that very charming people have in RL of making you feel like they are focused completely on you.

LaQueen I reckon it's the combination of strength and power and the vulnerability of Crommers which make him so attractive. He can look after himself (all that soldiering) as well as being jolly clever, and he adored his family. And he turned down Mary Boleyn when she threw herself at him, very sensibly as it turned out.

EsTutMirLeid Thu 19-Sep-13 22:13:57

Can you ask her why she can't punctuate?!

TunipTheUnconquerable Thu 19-Sep-13 22:17:37

Yes, the fact that she makes him physically powerful as well as politically. And the vulnerability, definitely, and self-control. It's far sexier that he turns down Mary Boleyn than it would be if he'd gone for her. Refusing beautiful women is always sexy. Attractive detectives do it a lot (eg Inspector Morse - not fanciable to our generation but was to older people).

Jux Thu 19-Sep-13 22:18:22

It has been suggested that her winning the MB twice is an indication of the falling standards. Does she agree?

How does she feel about it being opened up to US authors?

Personally, I think she's shit, so would say yes to the first.

Jux I can see myself being torn apart by Mantel fans if I ask that. Or at least, given a solid shunning. Anyway, I think she's great.

LaQueenForADay Thu 19-Sep-13 22:24:14

Yes, yes, yes...and the fact that he's so feckin masculine and competent at everything. You know that if you were out with him he would know how to properly order from the wine menu, but also be able to kick the shit out of any wannabe footpad on the way home.

I love the fact that he's from the wrong side of the tracks but is just as clever and wordly as all the cultured nobility that he comes into contact with, and then proceeds to run rings round them.

And, he has iron self control...and I like that in a man. He walks away from Mary Boleyn, despite her wearing her best stockings to entice him. Very sex-heh indeed.

And the fact he so cynical and toughened, but still dreams of his dead wife and daughters.

I think I might ned to go and lie down for a bit...

Waswondering Thu 19-Sep-13 22:28:01

What book would she grab in the airport when dashing to her gate?

Is there a particular book that she read as a teenager that stayed with her ....

maillotjaune Fri 20-Sep-13 09:55:40

As I loved A Place of Greater Safety as well I might ask: Cromwell or Danton?

TunipTheUnconquerable Fri 20-Sep-13 12:51:30

Bearing in mind LaQ's posts, I would REALLY like to know (PLEASE ask her this if you can!): Did she MEAN him to be that sexy or did he just come out that way?

I can kind of imagine her giggling to herself at the idea of taking one of the most generally disliked and unattractive figures of the Tudor court and making all these women fall in love with him. But equally maybe the whole process was just subconscious - I would love to know how consciously she did it.

TunipTheUnconquerable Fri 20-Sep-13 12:53:01

'if you were out with him he would know how to properly order from the wine menu, but also be able to kick the shit out of any wannabe footpad on the way home.'

Ha ha, yes. Also he wouldn't get overcharged but if they tried to he would deal with it without making an embarrassing scene.

If I manage to speak to her without too many other people there I will ask her about sexy Cromwell. I'm not asking her in front of the whole audience!

TunipTheUnconquerable Fri 20-Sep-13 14:42:21


In the loos....

Quick update - HM couldn't come to the drinks party as planned due to health issues sad so I didn't get to meet her. Her talk was spellbinding though and she read two long-ish passages from The Mirror and the Light.

Someone in the audience (not me!) asked her with whom she most identified in WH and BUTB and she said it was a beautiful question and that she identified with all of them, except Gardiner and Thomas Howard.

The questions asked by the audience were so well-prepared and she answered so eloquently and thoughtfully that I didn't have the nerve to ask about the sexiness of Cromwell.

Oh, and she got the giggles during one of her readings and had to take a break to compose herself before she could carry on, which made me like her even more.

I also got mistaken for Rachel Cooke and someone told me they 'loved my session last night' wink.

TunipTheUnconquerable Sun 22-Sep-13 15:51:08

Oh WHY doesn't she identify with Howard? How can she not if she's read his letters, which she MUST have done? (I know he's evil but he is also drily funny and so self-centred that he's easy peasy to get.)

Can't wait for The Mirror And The Light. Is it 2014?

I don't think HM can forgive Howard for his role in Cromwell's downfall.

TM&TL is supposed to be 2014, but HM said that she is making slow progress. She said, interestingly, that she doesn't write in a linear way - i.e. she can't say, 'I'm up to 1530' or whenever it is. Rather, she has files of papers, and scenes written, and then it all comes together in the end into a book.

There was a cameraman there filming the whole thing, so I am wondering if it might appear on her publisher's website.

TunipTheUnconquerable Mon 23-Sep-13 10:01:38

That's understandable. Howard did play his part with enormous relish.

AlansCatalanCat Mon 23-Sep-13 12:14:47

HM couldn't come to the drinks party as planned due to health issues

She probably read this thread. wink

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