Poor old Hilary Mantel. She’s often described as a historical novelist – but the truth is she’s a rather poor historian. Or, to be more generous, there’s little of genuine historical insight in her Thomas Cromwell novels. These are not books, one might surmise, by someone with an abiding understanding of political power.
By implication, she probably has only the vaguest grasp of the pact (we’d call it a Faustian pact if we had any gumption) that literary fiction has forged with the nation’s esteemed political class over the last three decades or so.
This is a genre patronised (in the word’s oldest and most precise sense) by meretricious awards schemes and by the views of the editors (and in some cases the managers, proprietors and proprietors’ wives) of quality newspapers. It is a world mediated, in the broadcast domain, by BBC Radio Four.
So Hilary Mantel’s only options, following her Kate remarks, would appear to be twofold. Either she can a) eat humble pie and appear to do so enthusiastically; or b) tell the world she’s learned her lesson, but do so churlishly.
Is it too much to hope that she chooses the latter course?