Hilary Mantel received critical acclaim in 2009 with the release of Wolf Hall, a historical novel which follows the rise of Thomas Cromwell in the court of King Henry VIII. A sequel, called Bring up the Bodies was released in 2012 to equal acclaim and now, after seven years of waiting, we now have a release window for the third and final book in the trilogy, The Mirror and the Light.
The book’s publisher, HarperCollins, has announced that the final book is set to be released in March 2020 and will document the final years of Cromwell’s life, picking up where the last book left off, with the execution of Anne Boleyn, and will no doubt end with Cromwell’s own execution in 1540. The previous two books both won the Booker Prize and sold over 1.5 million copies combined. This final installment will no doubt be one of the most anticipated books of 2020.
As The Guardian reports, Mantel said she’d been on a “long journey” with Cromwell and that she hopes her readers will follow her to the end of his life. “When I began work on my Thomas Cromwell books back in 2005, I had high hopes, but it took time to feel out the full scope of the material. I didn’t know at first I would write a trilogy, but gradually I realised the richness and fascination of this extraordinary life,” she said. “I hope they will stay with me as we walk the last miles of Cromwell’s life, ascending to unprecedented riches and honour and abruptly descending to the scaffold at Tower Hill. This book has been the greatest challenge of my writing life, and the most rewarding; I hope and trust my readers will find it has been worth the wait.”
Nicholas Pearson, Mantell’s publisher at Fourth Estate, described The Mirror and the Light as “every bit as daring and thrilling” as the previous novels. He described the upcoming book as “Completely immersive, as it charts the final years of Cromwell, it also casts a fresh light on the politics of power and the way we live now. When I first read the opening pages of Wolf Hall, I was drawn into history in a way I hadn’t experienced before. Hilary Mantel allows us to inhabit the past as it happens – we watch Cromwell and those in his orbit as their lives unfold, making decisions the consequences of which they cannot know.”
HarperCollins has said the final novel will offer “a defining portrait of predator and prey, of a ferocious contest between present and past, between royal will and a common man’s vision: of a modern nation making itself through conflict, passion and courage.” It has also been confirmed that the novel will be adapted for television by the BBC, following the award winning adaptation of Wolf Hall. Fans of Mantel’s writing will also be pleased to learn that a film exploring her life and works is also due to be released next March.
It has been quite some time since the last novel in the series, and Mantel has said this is due to her desire to deliver a high quality ending. “People ask me if I’m having trouble killing off Thomas Cromwell. No, why would I?” she said. “It is 10 years’ worth of effort and it is lovely to have the encouragement of people who are waiting for it, but that’s why I want to deliver them something that is the very best.”