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Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
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Wolf Hall (original 2009; edition 2009)

by Hilary Mantel

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
6,978435517 (3.98)4 / 1532
Member:sjmccreary
Title:Wolf Hall
Authors:Hilary Mantel
Info:London : Fourth Estate, 2009.
Collections:Your library, To read, Overwhelming Odds, Owned books
Rating:
Tags:LT, fiction, historical, England

Work details

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (2009)

  1. 143
    The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell (kidzdoc)
    kidzdoc: This is another excellent British historical novel.
  2. 111
    Dissolution by C. J. Sansom (gypsysmom)
  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 (elvisettey)
  5. 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.
  6. 93
    Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel (zhejw)
  7. 40
    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. 41
    Beyond Black by Hilary Mantel (otherstories)
  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. 20
    Virgin and the Crab: Sketches, Fables and Mysteries from the early life of John Dee and Elizabeth Tudor by Robert Parry (RochieRochel)
  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. 22
    A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin (Anonymous user)
    Anonymous user: Complex political machinations in a book that clearly references English history, including the Tudor era.
  19. 11
    Sarum by Edward Rutherfurd (guurtjesboekenkast)
  20. 22
    A Bloody Field by Shrewsbury by Edith Pargeter (ansate)
    ansate: Different time period, but another fantastically written historical novel

(see all 23 recommendations)

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English (424)  Dutch (4)  German (3)  Swedish (3)  Hebrew (1)  Danish (1)  Catalan (1)  French (1)  Norwegian (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (440)
Showing 1-5 of 424 (next | show all)
THIS BOOK.

I wanted to hug it to myself forever. And really, I probably never would have read it but for the book bingo challenge. I decided to widen my net for the "book your friend loves" category and asked for recommendations on Facebook. A huge list resulted, but for some reason it was this one, recommended by one of my English professors from college, Sandy Feinstein, that I fixated on. It's the somewhat familiar story of Henry VIII, but focused on Thomas Cromwell instead.

I did spend entirely too much time during the first half of the book trying to match personalities to what I remembered from that half season of Tudors I watched on Netflix a year or so ago. Later I sometimes got lost in all the Thomases and Richards, and referring to people sometimes by title and sometimes by name, and the titles changing. The book had very helpful lists of characters and family trees I made use of a few times. There are just a lot of people involved. But by the end, some are so familiar they feel like family.

I could go on and on about this book, I love it so much. I keep wanting to describe it as humane. I expected it to be full of drama and court intrigue and that's certainly there. I didn't expect it to be so comforting. Partially as a reminder that whatever injustices exist in the world today, no one is being publicly disemboweled for saying they believe the communion wafer is just a wafer, or daring to distribute the Bible in English. Also to see a man rise to power and refuse to stoop to the level of his vanquished enemies. To decline to torture even when it is the established order of the day.

It was a long book, which I first dreaded because of my deadline, but then I didn't want it to end. Lucky me, it's the first book of a trilogy. ( )
  greeniezona | Sep 20, 2014 |
A satisfying read charting the ascent of Thomas Cromwell. The book is analogous to a "howdunnit" seeing as it is a historical fiction based around what is probably one of the most well-known pieces of English history. However, as opposed to the more-often-than-not sensationalised fictionalised adaptions, Wolf Hall comes across as extremely well-researched (I'm no expert on the cast of characters and the surrounding events thereof) and the interactions/dialogues realistic. It is tantalisingly slow-paced which only adds to the whole atmosphere of 16th century court lives and the present-tense is a constant reminder that the reader is privy to knowledge that the characters are not.

Things I really liked:
- the cast of characters and the family tree at the beginning of the book. What with all the Mary's, Thomas's and Richard's and all the affairs and illegitimate children, it is good to have a reference point for reminders. It was a good first impression for me as it signalled to me that the book is well-researched and has a complex plot and web of characters that warrants the need for the references.
- the nuanced descriptions of the characters, especially Cromwell. We can understand his upward trajectory to being Henry's right-hand man but he and we both know that he can fall out of his favour just as fast. We are privy to his thoughts but he still remains an enigma and there is still enough room for interpretations.
- the liberal use of the pronoun "he" for Cromwell. On occasions there would be two or three he/him/his in one sentence which doesn't seem to follow on from the previous but it was always clear who was who. Though it did force me to read slower and more carefully and contemplatively.
- the language. It felt authentic and not put-upon.

I can't explain why I don't feel like this is a five-star or four-and-a-half star book. Maybe it is because the anticipation in reading the book is character-driven (and prose-driven) rather than plot-, which is unfair since it is based on history. I usually find fault with novels because of their plots or characters but it's difficult to do so in this case since it is based on history. Perhaps four-star is as high as I can go for historical fictions. ( )
1 vote kitzyl | Sep 17, 2014 |
Others have reviewed this book in great detail, so I will only say that I have read this book twice and listened to it as an audiobook once and am about to begin listening to it again. It's that good. Mantel is some kind of genius. Every book she writes has something remarkable and unique about it. ( )
  janey47 | Aug 26, 2014 |


The title is misleading in that Wolf Hall was the home of the Seymours and there isn't a great deal of them. Secondly, I found the writing choppier than the ocean on a blustery, windy day. Very, very disappointed. ( )
1 vote DisneyDiva86 | Aug 25, 2014 |


The title is misleading in that Wolf Hall was the home of the Seymours and there isn't a great deal of them. Secondly, I found the writing choppier than the ocean on a blustery, windy day. Very, very disappointed. ( )
  DisneyDiva86 | Aug 25, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 424 (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 (6 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Hilary Mantelprimary authorall 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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Wikipedia in English (3)

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, a
Complex figure: shrewd, clever,
Kind, loyal, witty.
(passion4reading)

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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:06:26 -0400)

(see all 8 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.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 11 descriptions

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