There were those who had predicted that it would not appeal to American readers but they were proved wrong again last night. "Wolf Hall," Hilary Mantel's novel about the life of Henry VIII adviser Thomas Cromwell was named best fiction at the National Book Critics Circle award ceremony for the 2009 publishing year in New York last night.
When "Wolf Hall" won the 2009 Booker prize several critics predicted that the book's success in Britain – where it managed to please both book critics and mainstream readers – would not translate into acceptance by American readers. "Wolf Hall," it was suggested, was too heavy on English history and would baffle a US audience.
Instead, however, the work has been embraced by American critics, book clubs, and fiction lovers alike. Last night's award was just one more proof of its success on this side of the pond.
Last night's NBCC winners were:
Fiction award: Hilary Mantel for "Wolf Hall
Autobiography award: Diana Athill for "Somewhere Towards the End"
Criticism award: Eula Biss for "Notes From No Man's Land: American Essays"
Poetry award: Rae Armantrout for "Versed"
The Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award: Joyce Carol Oates
The Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing: Joan Accocela
Marjorie Kehe is the Monitor's book editor.