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Mantel's Wolf Hall wins fiction prize

books Updated: Mar 12, 2010 12:51 IST

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Hilary MantelHilary Mantel's Wolf Hall, last year's winner of the Man Booker Prize in London, was honoured on Thursday night on this side of the Atlantic Ocean.

The novel, set in the age of King Henry VIII, won the National Book Critics Circle Prize for fiction. It's a sympathetic narrative of royal adviser Thomas Cromwell.

Mantel was not in attendance at Thursday's ceremony but issued a statement saying that she was working on a sequel and that the award is "the best possible encouragement."

Others cited on Thursday included Richard Holmes' highly regarded study of the crossed stars of science and poetry, The Age of Wonder, which received the general nonfiction award. Blake Bailey's Cheever: A Life, a thorough account of the late novelist John Cheever, won for biography, and longtime editor Diana Athill's Somewhere Towards the End, an athiest's spirited reflection on old age, was the winner for autobiography. Rae Armantrout's Versed was cited for poetry, while the prize for criticism went to Eula Biss' essays on American life and culture, Notes from No Man's Land.

Biss, noting that her book was a work of criticism released by a small publisher, Graywolf Press, said she didn't worry too much about what she wrote because she assumed no one would read it. "You took away my comfort," she joked. Honorary awards were given to Joyce Carol Oates for lifetime achievement and to New Yorker dance critic Joan Acocella for excellence in reviewing.

The NBCC awards were established in 1974.