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Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

Wolf Hall (original 2009; edition 2009)

by Hilary Mantel

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
9,777556478 (3.98)4 / 1882
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.
Title:Wolf Hall
Authors:Hilary Mantel
Info:Henry Holt
Collections:Your library
Tags:Fiction, Read in 2009

Work details

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (2009)

  1. 121
    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. 113
    Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel (zhejw)
  5. 91
    The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Alison Weir (ijustgetbored)
  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. 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.
  9. 41
    Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII by David Starkey (souloftherose)
  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. 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.
  12. 20
    The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel (guurtjesboekenkast)
  13. 31
    The Marriage of Meggotta by Edith Pargeter (Osbaldistone)
  14. 42
    Beyond Black by Hilary Mantel (otherstories)
  15. 20
    The Life of Thomas More by Peter Ackroyd (napaxton)
  16. 10
    The Corn King and the Spring Queen by Naomi Mitchison (Anonymous user)
  17. 21
    Sarum by Edward Rutherfurd (guurtjesboekenkast)
  18. 43
    Dark Fire by C. J. Sansom (brenzi)
    brenzi: Another book concerning the Henry VIII and Thomas Chromwell.
  19. 00
    Hild by Nicola Griffith (wandering_star)
  20. 22
    The Children's Book by A. S. Byatt (kidzdoc)

(see all 24 recommendations)

To Read (52)

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English (551)  Dutch (7)  German (3)  Swedish (3)  Italian (2)  French (2)  Danish (1)  Norwegian (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (571)
Showing 1-5 of 551 (next | show all)
I used to have a lot of conversations (not so much these days; maybe I'm more discerning about who I converse with) about how I shouldn't read fantasy (which is made up) but should read historical fiction (which is "real"). And so I got myself into the habit of, when I observed a particularly praised piece of historical fiction floating about, I had a look. I'm not sure why I persist in this habit, since my response is almost always, "...eh, whatever."

This is good fun to read. (With two exceptions that took some getting used to: Mantel's tendency to just refer to her narrator as "he", regardly of who the last person under discussion was, and her wild and carefree attitude towards punctuation, particularly the gay scattering of colons and semi-colons.) The writing is both pithy and sparkling, with a wry tone and an intelligent sparsity. That covers a whole heap of sins, and is sufficient to carry me along for a goodly portion of the book, but eventually I found myself picking the tome (and hefty it is) up with a certain degree of irritation, because where was the plot? Like I say, following along with the amusing and dynamic and sympathetic Thomas Cromwell was all very fine, but there was no sense to the events of the narrative that they were building in tension towards some pivotal turmoil. And, indeed the book just carried on at the same merry pace through to the end, more a chronicle than a drama.

I did find it very interesting to explore and consider the many forces that were working upon and towards the decision for Henry and England to break with the Catholic church (not just, as is blithely and simplistically suggested occasionally, him thinking with his dick). And I suppose a strong argument could be made that manufacturing any sort of suspense from events that are recorded history is a silly notion in any case, but I am not reading history, I am reading a novel, aren't I? I am not here to be informed but entertained (information being a pleasant side benefit) and I find myself decidedly dissatisfied with the narrative weight of this in that light.

I sit here frowning consideringly at the back cover of this, contemplating that yes, perhaps, this is a novel about the intellectual and political duel between Thomas Cromwell and Thomas More for the religious, sociological, political, scientific, cultural future of England, and aren't we all glad that progressive won out over regressive, yes, we probably don't need to belabour that, but still... there was never any tension about that, never any suggestion that the winner wasn't going to be Cromwell. Which, of course, we know from history, but still.

I enjoyed reading it. But it hardly fills me with raptures of delight. ( )
  cupiscent | Aug 3, 2019 |
this review is for the audiobook, narrated by simon slater.

so. good. i thought i would revisit the first two wolf hall novels, in audiobook form, ahead of the release of the third book. slater is a good narrator, though some of his characters did teeter into caricature-ville just a tad. ( )
  Booktrovert | Jul 27, 2019 |
I loved this book and cannot wait for the sequel. And I still do not have much sympathy for Thomas Cromwell! ( )
  a1stitcher | Jun 22, 2019 |
I've read this twice, 2010 and 2019. I think I liked it more the second time. ( )
  gbelik | Jun 13, 2019 |
Reading the new Thomas Cromwell biography by Diarmaid MacCulloch, I realized that I had not yet read the second novel by Hilary Mantel about Cromwell, Bring Up the Bodies (2012). And now the news is that the third book of her planned Cromwell trilogy will be published in 2020. So to get a running start at those I re-read the first one, Wolf Hall. Still great.

The last time I read it they hadn’t yet made the mini-series (watch on Bezos-Vision Prime). I found on reading MacCulloch and re-reading Mantel that now Mark Rylance is firmly fixed in my head as Cromwell.

Mark Rylance did for Thomas Cromwell what Paul Schofield did for Thomas More. And what Robert Bolt did for Thomas More, Hilary Mantel undid. ( )
  k6gst | May 24, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 551 (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 (44 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Mantel, Hilaryprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
slater, simonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Willems, IneTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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'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. 27 B.C.
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.
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.
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Book description
Haiku summary
How many Thomases?
How many Annes? Enough for
A Reformation?
Hilary Mantel's
character resurrection
of Thomas Cromwell.
Fast-paced, well-written
political thriller. Twist?
Set in Tudor times.
Thomas Cromwell: from
historical figure to
man of flesh and blood.
A court of bared fangs,
Who will survive the scheming,
In this hall of wolves?

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