French Revolution

Interview: Hilary Mantel

Archive article

Hilary Mantel’s new novel is set at the time of the great French Revolution which began with the storming of the Bastille prison on 14 July 1789. The novel centres on three of the revolution’s leading figures. She talked to Paul McGarr and John Rees about why she wrote the book and the revolution’s relevance today.

You’ve said that when you started thinking about the book 18 years ago you felt you couldn’t understand anything about society unless you understood revolutions. What gave you that feeling?

In my mid-teens I developed an obsessional interest in revolutions. I thought of this as a political stance, although when I look back on it now I realise that the idea of “the world turned upside down” was attractive to me because I was miserable and I wanted the world to be different and I wanted to be in charge of myself.

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