Hilary Mantel has won the Man Booker Prize for Bring Up the Bodies, becoming the first woman and first British author to win the 50,000 pounds fiction award twice.
She is also the first writer to win for two novels in a series, having taken the 2009 award for Wolf Hall, the first instalment in her planned trilogy about the life Thomas Cromwell and the court of Henry VIII.
Doubt that she could win again so soon led commentators to speculate that this year's prize would go to Will Self for Umbrella, his clever modernist portrayal of the decline of 20th-century Europe through the illness of a group of mental patients.
However most will agree that of the six shortlisted authors Mantel deserves the accolade. Reviews have marvelled at her transformation of historical fiction into a vibrant new form, her ability to bring to life familiar figures from history in a fresh, complex and believable way and to portray the ruthless politics of 16th-century Britain with compelling intimacy and humour.
Mantel herself has said, "I knew from the first paragraph that this was going to be the best thing I'd ever done."
Only two writers have previously won the Booker twice - Australia's Peter Carey and South Africa-born Australian citizen J.M. Coetzee.
This year's other shortlisted books were Swimming Home by Deborah Levy, The Lighthouse by Alison Moore, The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng and Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil.