Hilary Mantel was on Tuesday night (Wednesday, 2:30am IST) named winner of the £50,000 Man Booker Prize for Fiction for Wolf Hall, published by Fourth Estate.
Wolf Hall had been the bookies' favourite for the prize since the long list was announced in July 2009. The book was picked from a short list of six titles. Antonia S Byatt, JM Coetzee, Adam Foulds, Simon Mawer, and Sarah Waters were the others in the short list.
Wolf Hall is set in the 1520s and tells the story of Thomas Cromwell's rise to prominence in the Tudor court. Mantel has been praised by critics for writing "a rich, absorbingly readable historical novel; she has made a significant shift in the way any of her readers interested in English history will henceforward think about Thomas Cromwell."
BBC presenter James Naughtie, chairperson of the Booker judges committee, said, "Mantel has given us a thoroughly modern novel set in the 16th century. Wolf Hall has a vast narrative sweep that gleams on every page with luminous and mesmerising detail.
"It probes the mysteries of power by examining and describing the meticulous dealings in Henry VIII's court, revealing in thrilling prose how politics and history is made by men and women.
"In the words of Mantel's Thomas Cromwell, whose story this is, 'the fate of peoples is made like this, two men in small rooms. Forget the coronations, the conclaves of cardinals, the pomp and processions. This is how the world changes'."
This is the first time Fourth Estate has had a Man Booker Prize winner. The firm has previously published three shortlisted books — Nicola Barker's Darkmans (2007) and Carol Shields' novels Unless (2002) and The Stone Diaries (1993).
Hilary Mantel spent five years writing Wolf Hall. She is currently working on a sequel.
Naughtie made the announcement, which was broadcast by the BBC from the awards dinner at London's Guildhall. Peter Clarke, chief executive of Man Group plc, presented Mantel with a cheque for £50,000.
Over and above the prize money, Mantel may expect a huge increase in sales and recognition worldwide. Each of the six shortlisted authors, including the winner, receives £2,500 and a designer-bound edition of their book. This year, shortlisted authors will also receive a year's membership to The Groucho Club in London.
The judging panel for the 2009 Man Booker Prize for Fiction was: Naughtie (chair); Lucasta Miller, biographer and critic; Michael Prodger, literary editor of The Sunday Telegraph; professor John Mullan, academic and author; and Sue Perkins, comedienne and broadcaster.