Mantel’s publisher revealed this week that The Mirror & the Light, the concluding part of her series about Thomas Cromwell, will go on sale next March. The author had said in April 2017 that she hoped to have it finished by early 2018.
Wolf Hall, the first book in the series, was published in 2009, followed three years later by Bring Up the Bodies. They were adapted for television by the BBC in 2015, starring Mark Rylance as Thomas Cromwell, Damian Lewis as Henry VIII and Claire Foy as Anne Boleyn. The six-part series was directed by Peter Kosminsky and written by Peter Straughan. Both men are involved with the follow-up, according to the production company Playground.
It is thought that Kosminsky, who directed The Government Inspector, about the life of the weapons expert David Kelly, has been given access to Mantel’s manuscript as she has progressed. The BBC has not yet disclosed when The Mirror & the Light will be broadcast, but Rylance and Lewis are expected to reprise their roles.
The original 2015 miniseries won three Bafta awards, including best drama and best actor for Rylance.
In a five-star review, the Times critic Andrew Billen praised the drama’s intellectual and emotional intelligence, saying it felt “as real and visceral as if the wolves of Henry’s court were panting down our own necks”. Not all viewers were impressed, however. Many complained that candlelit scenes were too dark, making it impossible to follow the action. Ratings fell from nearly six million to less than four million.
Nicholas Pearson, publishing director of 4th Estate, an imprint of Harper Collins, said The Mirror & the Light was “every bit as daring and thrilling as the novels that precede it . . . it also casts a fresh light on the politics of power and the way we live now”.
Mantel said that completing the novel had been the “greatest challenge of my writing life”, but urged readers to “stay with me”. The first two novels have sold more than five million copies.