Hilary Mantel Biography
(1952– ), The Spectator, Every Day Is Mother's Day, Vacant Possession
British novelist, born in Derbyshire, educated at the London School of Economics and Sheffield University. She worked in Africa and the Middle East for eight years, and in 1987 became film critic for The Spectator. Her novels are noted for their acerbic wit, their exposure of hypocrisy, and their fascination with the grotesque and with madness and obsession. Every Day Is Mother's Day (1985), a blackly comic tale about a disturbed woman and her mentally handicapped daughter, was followed by Vacant Possession (1986) and Eight Months on Ghazzah Street (1988). A mill town in the north of England during the 1950s is the setting for Fludd (1989), a kind of contemporary fairy tale in which an alchemist posing as a curate transforms the desolate lives of a nun and a priest and brings a spiritual and sensual awakening to the village. More panoramic in scope, A Place of Greater Safety (1992) is set during the French Revolution and concerns the rise and fall of three committed revolutionaries, Camille Desmoulins, Danton, and Robespierre. The novel was widely admired for the vividness with which it dramatized historical events, and for its convincing portrayal of character. A Change of Climate (1994), set in the early 1980s, concerns a missionary and his wife, who have returned after many years in Africa to the north of England. An Experiment in Love (1995) is a psychological drama depicting the rivalry between two poor but respectable Catholic girls who compete, as schoolgirls and later as students at London University in the 1960s, for moral and academic superiority.