NEW YORK — Hilary Mantel's "Wolf Hall," winner last year of the Man Booker Prize in London, was honored 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 compassionate narrative of royal adviser Thomas Cromwell, a leading enforcer of the English Reformation and a rival of Sir Thomas More.
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."
Three British authors were winners Thursday: Mantel, historian Richard Holmes for general nonfiction and 92-year-old editor Diane Athill for autobiography.
Holmes was cited for his highly regarded study of the crossed stars of science and poetry, "The Age of Wonder." Blake Bailey's "Cheever: A Life," a thorough account of the late novelist John Cheever, was the biography winner, and Athill won for "Somewhere Towards the End," an atheist's spirited reflection on old age.
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. No cash prizes are given.