Man Booker Prize Winner 2012

Tonight is the grand dinner in the Grand Hall of London’s Guildhall, where invited guests, judges and shortlisted nominees will be dining on porcini soufflé with a warm salad of wild mushrooms, black truffle shavings and cep velouté to start, then roast lamb with all the trimmings and a dessert of autumn textures and scents.

I do love how twitter lends a sense of occasion to an event I am far from, but can so vividly imagine thanks to our ever faithful, if somewhat distracted guests.

Drapers Livery Hall

It takes me back to a time-out year while studying in London and working part-time as a silver service waitress, serving many of the worshipful companies of vintners, weavers, apothecaries, blacksmiths, basketmakers, bowyers, broderers, feltmakers, farriers (ancient trade and craft brotherhoods fraternities), referred to collectively as livery companies, of which more than 100 continue to survive and meet inside some of the most extraordinary inner environments in the City of London today.

The Loving Cup

The livery companies are said to have originated in England before 1066. Guilds or associations were very popular throughout Europe and here in France, they remain prolific, although without all the pomp and ceremony that I was witness to during that year in London.

Ceremony of the Loving Cup

Rose petals in finger bowls and the loving cup ceremony, where two daggers are passed from man to man, while a third man (or woman) drinks in a protective ritual said to date back to Saxon times when King Edward was assassinated (stabbed in the back), place settings for multiple courses, at least 4 glasses for the water, wines and port and women smoking cigarettes in long-stemmed holders.

They had responsibility for standards, policy, educational qualifications, statutory and regulatory functions, and many of the guilds continue to play an important role in those areas today – however I was only witness to their meal time etiquette, which as a foreigner was a fascinating world to me, like living inside a medieval book for a night – surreal and the experience came with no explanation, only how to serve meat and vegetable using a fork and spoon in one hand, while holding a heavy plate with said food in the other. I developed very strong biceps and a unique cultural insight.

Today many of the City’s (London’s inner financial district) street names – such as Milk Street, Bread Street, Ironmonger Lane, Poultry, Cloth Fair and Mason’s Avenue – mark the sites where it all began.

And tonight book lovers and writers gather in that great medieval-style guildhall to celebrate literature and make one writer’s night, one never to forget.

Now that I’ve spent the last hour on a bit of a nostalgia trip, let’s check twitter again to see what we will be reading, will it be Deborah Levy’s Swimming Home, the one on the list I have read, or Tan Twan Eng’s The Garden of Evening Mists which I haven’t read, though I did just read his first novel The Gift of Rain.

………and the winner of the Man Booker Prize for 2012 is……..

Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel!

22 thoughts on “Man Booker Prize Winner 2012

    • Thanks Tracy, it is another world behind those doors and some very ancient traditions continue to be practised today. It made me think about female rituals and why they don’t seem to have survived, perhaps they were all burned at the stake! 🙂

      It was an interesting list of novels and it is this that will endure, so in a sense Swimming Home did win also, all those listed I am sure will continue to enjoy being read as a result of being selected, a success for us as readers as well.


  1. Methinks there’s poetry in being a ‘silver service waitress’ 😉 Methinks, too, it’s time to plunge into Hilary Mantel. Don’t know if you caught the post in which I referenced you as a favorite book blogger of mine. Speaking of which, I recently read ‘When Women Were Birds’ (the title alone made me curious; your review made it a must). It is a very profound book. Right on the heels of it, I read Jeanette Winterson’s memoir (which also touches on mother-daughter relationships), ‘Why Be Happy if You Can Be Normal.’ In a word, it’s wonderful.


    • Oh yes thank you so much for that, I did write a reply and spent some time trying to get it to post without success, I must go back and find it now that I am using my regular netbook again.
      There’s plenty to be inspired by in silver service, not just the livery halls, there were private government lunches too, plenty of fodder there for a future story perhaps.
      I’m happy you enjoyed William’s book, it is one to savour and I am looking forward to reading Winterson’s memoir as well, especially after reading Jackie Kay’s Red Dust Road.


  2. I’ve had it sitting by my bed for two months now! When I finally find time to read, it’s numero uno on my list. How exciting that it won the Man Booker! I loved Wolf Hall although it was a challenging read at times … SO much detail. How does she do it? Claire, your memories and historical facts around the guilds of England was so enlightening. I find British history fascinating and love the way so many traditions live on.


    • I haven’t read it either despite it sitting on the shelf for some time, but I do have her historical novel about the French revolution A Place of Greater Safetyon the shelf and given my recent reading, I’m thinking perhaps that will be my initial tribute to Hilary Mantel, while she is busy writing the third in the trilogy.

      Thank you Patricia, I am happy you enjoyed the little nostalgia trip inside ancient England, it is fascinating isn’t it?


    • Thank you Valerie, seeing the menu and the pictures of the Guildhall took me back and I found my fingers tapping away talking about everything but the Man Booker Prize while waiting for the announcement, a bit of misleading title now I think.


  3. A bit of British culture and literature – love this post!!! As for Hilary Mantel, félicitations to her! I’ve not read any of her books but I hear she’s a historical fiction giant, with a knack for detail and parades of interesting characters. It’s also something that she’s won for the second time. I guess I should start with Wolf Hall unless someone out there suggests another title. Oh my long TBR list…….


      • Please tell me how it goes. I would be more inclined to start with the French Revolution since I know more about that than the Tudor period. I got my first introduction of the Tudor period from Philippa Gregory. That may not be the best, but you have to start somewhere. I read for my book club 2 years ago. I found it fascinating. Hope you weren’t too disappointed by the winner? I heard one book hardly has any punctuation (Umbrella) and another has an opening sentence that is six pages long (Narcopolis). What do you think about some of these shortlisted books. Do these books sound readable and acceptable to be put on the shortlist. I don’t really know but I did put both of them on my Goodread TBR list befroe I knew those little tidbits. How about you?


        • I don’t think I’ll be reading it for a while, I have so much to read, but after The Black Count, I feel more inclined towards something related to what I have been reading. I enjoyed the Philippa Gregory stories about Anne of Boleyn and her sister Mary, then tried to watch that Tudor TV series and got put off by the depiction of the characters which was so unlike how I’d imagined them from the books.

          I had no expectations for the Booker winner, I’m more a fan of the longlist than winners, because that is where we are likely to find the one or two books that will resonate with us as individuals, I think this was Peter Stothard’s winner and great for British fiction, I am sure it was deserving, although perhaps not a book that needed too much publicity as it was the most well known on the list.

          I like that we were introduced to some new authors, I’ve just read Tan Twang Eng’s The Gift of Rain, his work appeals to me because of its cross cultural insights, a story that takes us to unknown places and shows us perspectives different from our own. This is the gift of the prize for me, to highlight new names and send us off on other journeys of literary discovery.


        • Exactly right! Unfortunately I think this is why some readers fear prize winning books because they feel that they are too difficult. As for movie and tv adaptations of books, I hate the majority of them. Sometimes I wonder why they even bother with it. It just winds up projecting a false image of the author’s intentions. I usually try to avoid them.


  4. You really captured the essence of the scene here! Excellent! I’ve been to London twice, but actually both times felt robbed, because we used it as a sort of stopping ground before traveling to other parts of England and then to Wales and Ireland. So I’ve never truly experienced London. Sounds like there is just so much to offer.


    • London has SO much to offer, you can not just bypass it, I lived there for many years and every time I return I find it as exciting and as inspirational as it was in the first year I arrived. Especially if you love the arts, culture and have time to uncover some of its secrets (not just the tourist attractions). Few visit the City as many of the shops, theatres etc are in the West End, but it is so worth digging a little deeper and discovering its interesting underside.

      Thanks for visiting and commenting Katherine.


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