Two decades before she began her Wolf Hall Trilogy, Hilary Mantel was a contributor to the London Review of Books. "I have no critical training whatsoever," she wrote to the editor, "so I am forced to be more brisk and breezy than scholarly." As this collection of 20 reviews, essays, and biographical sketches demonstrates, Mantel was selling herself short. Here are her thoughts on Madonna, Robespierre, Marlowe, and Helen Duncan—the last British woman imprisoned for witchcraft. Also included are her notorious lecture "Royal Bodies," accounts of her four years in Saudi Arabia, her first meeting with her stepfather, and a confrontation with a circus strongman.