To listen to Hilary Mantel describe "Wolf Hall" is to crave a long, wide-eyed wander through her richly recreated world. Her historical novel, the favourite to win this year's Man Booker Prize, approaches the court of Henry VIII from the vantage of Thomas Cromwell, the king's most trusted advisor--a figure described by David Starkey as Alistair Campbell with an axe.

In this Daunt Debate, filmed at the Daunt bookstore in London, she describes being drawn to Cromwell for the way he is "One of these extraordinary individuals who you can see would be exceptional in any time or place". She also admits that she "sort of fell in love with" Cardinal Thomas Wolsey ("once he began to speak I was entranced," she says in a way that is nothing short of entrancing in itself). Here Mantel reads from what has been heralded as the Great British novel, and breathes life into an array of dusty old men in stockings: 

For more on Mantel, it's worth reading Joan Acocella's review, as well as her profile of her in the New Yorker (from 2005). The winner of the Man Booker Prize will be announced at London's Guildhall on October 6th.