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Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
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Wolf Hall (2009)

by Hilary Mantel

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Wolf Hall Trilogy (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
9,551548464 (3.98)4 / 1861
  1. 131
    Dissolution by C. J. Sansom (gypsysmom)
  2. 143
    The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell (kidzdoc)
    kidzdoc: This is another excellent British historical novel.
  3. 90
    The Autobiography of Henry VIII: With Notes by His Fool, Will Somers by Margaret George (napaxton)
  4. 91
    The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Alison Weir (ijustgetbored)
  5. 113
    Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel (zhejw)
  6. 70
    An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (souci)
    souci: A look at the machinations behind the throne as England passes out of placid Catholicism moving fitfully and violently towards Protestantism.
  7. 50
    Henry VIII by J. J. Scarisbrick (robeik)
    robeik: Somewhat academic, but chock-full of detail on Henry's divorce proceedings from Catherine and the Roman Catholic Church.
  8. 40
    Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII by David Starkey (souloftherose)
  9. 41
    Abundance by Sena Jeter Naslund (bell7)
    bell7: Both biographical novels explore well-known historical events through the eyes of one sympathetic character close to the action.
  10. 30
    Virgin and the Crab: Sketches, Fables and Mysteries from the early life of John Dee and Elizabeth Tudor by Robert Parry (RochieRochel)
  11. 53
    Dark Fire by C. J. Sansom (brenzi)
    brenzi: Another book concerning the Henry VIII and Thomas Chromwell.
  12. 20
    The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel (guurtjesboekenkast)
  13. 20
    Doomsday Book by Connie Willis (Anonymous user)
    Anonymous user: This is another book that really brings a period of history to life around you.
  14. 31
    The Marriage of Meggotta by Edith Pargeter (Osbaldistone)
  15. 42
    Beyond Black by Hilary Mantel (otherstories)
  16. 20
    The Life of Thomas More by Peter Ackroyd (napaxton)
  17. 10
    The Corn King and the Spring Queen by Naomi Mitchison (Anonymous user)
  18. 21
    Sarum by Edward Rutherfurd (guurtjesboekenkast)
  19. 00
    Hild by Nicola Griffith (wandering_star)
  20. 22
    A Bloody Field by Shrewsbury by Edith Pargeter (ansate)
    ansate: Different time period, but another fantastically written historical novel

(see all 24 recommendations)

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English (542)  Dutch (6)  German (3)  Swedish (3)  Italian (2)  French (2)  Danish (1)  Norwegian (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (561)
Showing 1-5 of 542 (next | show all)
2009 man booker prize
  mahallett | Jan 18, 2019 |
England in the reign of Henry VIII. Henry has reigned for twenty years already, married to Katherine of Aragon, widow of his late brother Arthur, by Papal dispensation. But his eyes (and other parts of his anatomy) are wandering. His marriage has failed to produce a male heir and there are surviving Yorkists breathing down his neck for the throne. He wants to try his luck elsewhere but the Pope won't withdraw the special dispensation and grant him an annulment. What's an ambitious monarch to do?

Enter Thomas Cromwell, the king's chief fixer and hitherto one of the great baddies of English history. Except that Hilary Mantel puts Cromwell centre stage, fleshing out his humble and abusive beginnings as the son of a single-parent Putney blacksmith and publican (the only actual facts known about Cromwell's early life is his father Walter's regular appearance in court records for violence); skating over young Thomas's overseas career as mercenary and wool merchant until we find him, now a trained lawyer, as the sidekick of Cardinal Thomas Wolsey (there are a dizzying number of Thomases here, it's hard to keep up sometimes). Wolsey falls from grace but not so Thomas Cromwell, cannily keeping his head and working his way to be the king's chief confidant, arranging the legislation required for him to cast off Katherine, marry Anne Boleyn and become the supreme head of the Church in England. Not everybody is co-operative of course, not least Thomas More whose trial and death bring this episode to a close, and it's Cromwell's job to see them off. He's ruthless, of course, but he makes sure his hand is never actually on the rack. Away from the machinations of power, as head of his household at Austin Friars, it's hard not to be touched by his warmth and generosity. The real villain of the piece is Anne Boleyn; ice-cold, ambitious, vindictive, manipulative. The king himself is seen as weak and easily led.

This was a long journey for me – mostly reading a few pages each night before bed – but a very enjoyable. Taking it slowly did no harm at all, it's one to savour. The problem I've had with historical fiction in the past is that it's either shallow and unconvincing, or it's remote and distant. Wolf Hall is neither; Hilary Mantel makes gives the past immediacy and relevance, and her characters real substance. Five stars superglued and nailed down to make sure.
( )
  enitharmon | Jan 14, 2019 |
England in the reign of Henry VIII. Henry has reigned for twenty years already, married to Katherine of Aragon, widow of his late brother Arthur, by Papal dispensation. But his eyes (and other parts of his anatomy) are wandering. His marriage has failed to produce a male heir and there are surviving Yorkists breathing down his neck for the throne. He wants to try his luck elsewhere but the Pope won't withdraw the special dispensation and grant him an annulment. What's an ambitious monarch to do?

Enter Thomas Cromwell, the king's chief fixer and hitherto one of the great baddies of English history. Except that Hilary Mantel puts Cromwell centre stage, fleshing out his humble and abusive beginnings as the son of a single-parent Putney blacksmith and publican (the only actual facts known about Cromwell's early life is his father Walter's regular appearance in court records for violence); skating over young Thomas's overseas career as mercenary and wool merchant until we find him, now a trained lawyer, as the sidekick of Cardinal Thomas Wolsey (there are a dizzying number of Thomases here, it's hard to keep up sometimes). Wolsey falls from grace but not so Thomas Cromwell, cannily keeping his head and working his way to be the king's chief confidant, arranging the legislation required for him to cast off Katherine, marry Anne Boleyn and become the supreme head of the Church in England. Not everybody is co-operative of course, not least Thomas More whose trial and death bring this episode to a close, and it's Cromwell's job to see them off. He's ruthless, of course, but he makes sure his hand is never actually on the rack. Away from the machinations of power, as head of his household at Austin Friars, it's hard not to be touched by his warmth and generosity. The real villain of the piece is Anne Boleyn; ice-cold, ambitious, vindictive, manipulative. The king himself is seen as weak and easily led.

This was a long journey for me – mostly reading a few pages each night before bed – but a very enjoyable. Taking it slowly did no harm at all, it's one to savour. The problem I've had with historical fiction in the past is that it's either shallow and unconvincing, or it's remote and distant. Wolf Hall is neither; Hilary Mantel makes gives the past immediacy and relevance, and her characters real substance. Five stars superglued and nailed down to make sure.
( )
  enitharmon | Jan 14, 2019 |
Difficult to get into, but at the end an enjoyable re-telling of the well-known Henry and Anne saga, from Cromwell's point of view.

We are in Comwell's skin in third person, referred to simply as "he" when following Cromwell's thoughts and experiences. This works fine when he is alone, but in dialogues and especially stories told by another he, it can get confusing and distracting. There were multiple scenes I had to re-read in order to figure out who is speaking. On the bright side, the dialogue is so sharp I could visualize it as a TV show - I guess the producers thought so, too...

Mantel draws a nuanced portrait of Henry, a complicated man, whose temper ranges from loving and caring to petulant and vengeful. I especially enjoyed scenes where Cromwell is managing him - soothing him like a child, catering to his vanity. Cromwell is a fascinating character, raised high purely on his talent, wit and tireless ability to get things done. I did not like Mantel's Anne Boleyn - childish, vengeful, alienating everyone. I think she was a lot smarter than how she was portrayed here.

This novel is not for everyone. It takes a while to get into - the "he" is confusing, the style is semi-stream-of-consciousness, and if you are not familiar with the history of the period already, you will get lost - Mantel refers to things but does not explain. I know a lot about the Tudor era so I enjoyed. it. ( )
1 vote Gezemice | Oct 29, 2018 |
Oh dear. I was hoping for a good historical novel (I was being nostalgic for the 1970s when I devoured the Jean Plaidy plantagenet cycle) and had this one suggested to me.

It didn't seem to have much of a plot--I mean, things happened, but that's just along the lines of "the king died, and then the queen died" ... unless it's "and the queen died of grief" you don't have a plot, you just have events. It felt rather like, if I were reading a mystery novel, but I didn't apprehend that the reason the main character was having conversations with everyone was to subtly gather clues about the murder, I might wonder at the point of it all. And wonder, in this case, I did.

Eventually having tried (but failed) to get through the miniseries, and tried (and succeeded, hurrah!) to watch the theatrical adaptation on stage, I gather that there is somewhat of a through line, but it only becomes manifest at the very very end. It's a bit like reading Jane Eyre and discovering 99% of the way through that Rochester killed her parents and that's why she's an orphan and now she's seeking revenge and never loved him at all, or some such thing.

I'd rather have my plots up front: Scarlett O'Hara desperately tries to win Ashley's love, not realising a more suitable man is there for the taking ... that kind of thing. (I loved Buffy for this--they'd set out a plot, and then they'd subvert it and surprise you--but you can't be surprised unless you have reason to think something in particular will happen to begin with.)

I can't imagine two entire volumes of this--I got halfway through one and had to give up. ( )
  ashleytylerjohn | Sep 19, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 542 (next | show all)
Hilary Mantel sets a new standard for historical fiction with her latest novel Wolf Hall, a riveting portrait of Thomas Cromwell, chief advisor to King Henry VIII and a significant political figure in Tudor England. Mantel’s crystalline style, piercing eye and interest in, shall we say, the darker side of human nature, together with a real respect for historical accuracy, make this novel an engrossing, enveloping read.
added by clamairy | editBookPage, Lauren Bufferd (Mar 2, 2011)
 
hard to read but enjoyable
added by AAGP | editSlate Audio Book Club (Mar 15, 2010)
 
A sequel is plainly in view, as we are given glimpses of the rival daughters who plague the ever-more-gross monarch’s hectic search for male issue. The ginger-haired baby Elizabeth is mainly a squalling infant in the period of the narrative, which chiefly covers the years 1527–35, but in the figure of her sibling Mary, one is given a chilling prefiguration of the coming time when the bonfires of English heretics will really start to blaze in earnest. Mantel is herself of Catholic background and education, and evidently not sorry to be shot of it (as she might herself phrase the matter), so it is generous of her to show the many pettinesses and cruelties with which the future “Bloody Mary” was visited by the callous statecraft and churchmanship of her father’s court. Cromwell is shown trying only to mitigate, not relieve, her plight. And Mary’s icy religiosity he can forgive, but not More’s. Anyone who has been bamboozled by the saccharine propaganda of A Man for All Seasons should read Mantel’s rendering of the confrontation between More and his interlocutors about the Act of Succession, deposing the pope as the supreme head of the Church in England.
 
Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall is a startling achievement, a brilliant historical novel focused on the rise to power of a figure exceedingly unlikely, on the face of things, to arouse any sympathy at all.
 
Thomas Cromwell remains a controversial and mysterious figure. Mantel has filled in the blanks plausibly, brilliantly. “Wolf Hall” has epic scale but lyric texture. Its 500-plus pages turn quickly, winged and falconlike... [It] is both spellbinding and believable.
 

» Add other authors (5 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Mantel, Hilaryprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
slater, simonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Willems, IneTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
'There are three kinds of scenes, one called the tragic, second the comic, third the satyric. Their decorations are different and unlike each other in scheme. Tragic scenes are delineated with columns, pediments, statues and other objects suited to kings; comic scenes exhibit private dwellings, with balconies and views representing rows of windows, after the manner of ordinary dwellings; satyric scenes are decorated with trees, caverns, mountains and other rustic objects delineated in landscape style.' Vitruvius, De Architectura, on the theatre, c.27BC
Dedication
To my singular friend Mary Robertson this be given.
First words
"So now get up."

Felled, dazed, silent, he has fallen; knocked full length on the cobbles of the yard. His head turns sideways; his eyes are turned towards the gate, as if someone might arrive to help him out. One blow, properly placed, could kill him now.
Quotations
The Cardinal, a Bachelor of Arts at fifteen, a Bachelor of Theology by his mid-twenties, is learned in the law but does not like its delays; he cannot quite accept that real property cannot be changed into money, with the same speed and ease with which he changes a wafer into the body of Christ.
"You're sweeter to look at than the cardinal", he says. - "That's the smallest compliment a woman ever received."
It is surprising how international is the language of old men, swapping tips on salves for aches, commiserating with petty wretchedness and discussing the whims and demands of their wives.
"Tell us, Master Cromwell, you've been abroad. Are they particularly an ungrateful nation? It seems to me that they like change for the sake of it?" - "I don't think it's the English. I think it's just people. They always hope there may be something better."
Christ, he thinks, by my age I ought to know. You don't get on by being original. You don't get on by being bright. You don't get on by being strong. You get on by being a subtle crook; somehow he thinks that's what Norris is, and he feels an irrational dislike taking root, and he tries to dismiss it, because he prefers his dislikes rational.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Information from the Finnish Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
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Book description
Haiku summary
How many Thomases?
How many Annes? Enough for
A Reformation?
(thorold)
Hilary Mantel's
character resurrection
of Thomas Cromwell.
(passion4reading)
Fast-paced, well-written
political thriller. Twist?
Set in Tudor times.
(passion4reading)
Thomas Cromwell: from
historical figure to
man of flesh and blood.
(passion4reading)
A court of bared fangs,
Who will survive the scheming,
In this hall of wolves?
(hillaryrose7)

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0805080686, Hardcover)

Amazon Best of the Month, October 2009: No character in the canon has been writ larger than Henry VIII, but that didn't stop Hilary Mantel. She strides through centuries, past acres of novels, histories, biographies, and plays--even past Henry himself--confident in the knowledge that to recast history's most mercurial sovereign, it's not the King she needs to see, but one of the King's most mysterious agents. Enter Thomas Cromwell, a self-made man and remarkable polymath who ascends to the King's right hand. Rigorously pragmatic and forward-thinking, Cromwell has little interest in what motivates his Majesty, and although he makes way for Henry's marriage to the infamous Anne Boleyn, it's the future of a free England that he honors above all else and hopes to secure. Mantel plots with a sleight of hand, making full use of her masterful grasp on the facts without weighing down her prose. The opening cast of characters and family trees may give initial pause to some readers, but persevere: the witty, whip-smart lines volleying the action forward may convince you a short stay in the Tower of London might not be so bad... provided you could bring a copy of Wolf Hall along. --Anne Bartholomew

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:44 -0400)

(see all 9 descriptions)

Assuming the power recently lost by the disgraced Cardinal Wolsey, Thomas Cromwell counsels a mercurial Henry VIII on the latter's efforts to marry Anne Boleyn against the wishes of Rome, a successful endeavor that comes with a dangerous price.

» see all 14 descriptions

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