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

by Hilary Mantel

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6,830429538 (3.99)4 / 1522
Member:elimatta
Title:Wolf Hall
Authors:Hilary Mantel
Info:Fourth Estate (2009), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 672 pages
Collections:library books read
Rating:****
Tags:fiction

Work details

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (2009)

Recently added byyopurl, cransell, batsao, vantigs, zinf, BonnieP, katsmurph, pcollins, private library, Dreamchen
  1. 143
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    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)
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  6. 93
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  7. 40
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  8. 40
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  10. 41
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  11. 53
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  13. 20
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  14. 31
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  15. 20
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  16. 20
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  17. 10
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  18. 22
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  20. 22
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    ansate: Different time period, but another fantastically written historical novel

(see all 23 recommendations)

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English (419)  Dutch (4)  German (3)  Swedish (3)  Hebrew (1)  Danish (1)  Norwegian (1)  Catalan (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (434)
Showing 1-5 of 419 (next | show all)
I enjoyed the read but at least 100 to 200 pages could have been cut from this as it really dragged a bit at times. ( )
  pcollins | Jul 27, 2014 |
When I cracked open Wolf Hall, I was curious about what would make a contemporary work of historical fiction worthy of the Man Booker prize. The point of view is close third, and the story is told in the present tense, which strikes me as unusual in historical fiction, and goes some way toward explaining this Tudor narrative’s distinctly contemporary feel. Mantel may be overly rigorous in sticking to the intimate POV of Wolf Hall’s protagonist: there are a great number of unattributed pronouns that a reader must occasionally struggle to assign. (Usually “he” refers to Mantel’s protagonist, Thomas Cromwell, but, obviously, not always.)

The novel has a unique narrative voice that’s harder to define – a voice that at first seems unnecessarily opaque, but gradually gains both clarity and power, and evolves into something altogether more sure-footed and engrossing. The complexity of the novel’s subject matter and the vast amount of history left unstated leaves the reader feeling virtuous, as if he has been called upon to participate alongside the author and characters in wrestling with events of tremendous human import. And once the story itself gains momentum – watch out. Wolf Hall is a literary page-turner of the first rank.

What makes it so good? In my opinion, it’s not so much the style or the subject matter as it is Mantel’s supreme gift for portraying character. Witness the following passages:

"Everything Chapuys does, he notices, is like something an actor does. When he thinks, he casts his eyes down, places two fingers to his forehead. When he sorrows, he sighs. When he is perplexed, he wags his chin, he half-smiles. He is like a man who has wandered inadvertently into a play, who has found it to be a comedy, and decided to stay and see it through."

"Gardiner laughs: his deep bass chuckle, like laughter through a crack in the earth."

"You could watch Henry every day for a decade and not see the same thing . . . Sometimes he seems hapless, sometimes feckless, sometimes a child, sometimes master of his trade. Sometimes he seems an artist, in the way his eye ranges over his work; sometimes his hand moves and he doesn’t seem to see it move. If he had been called to a lower station in life, he could have been a traveling player, and leader of his troupe."

I don't know about you, but I find this kind of thing downright awe-inspiring, like fictional versions of portraits by Henry VIII’s court painter, Hans Holbein.

Even more striking than Mantel's vividly drawn miniatures, however, is her main portrait, her masterpiece: Thomas Cromwell. Cromwell is a notorious figure in history, the willing henchman for a bloody-handed king, but Mantel quickly has us sympathizing with him. He seems basically decent: he is loyal and loves his friends; he is stylish and clever; he is vengeful, but in a way that is, if not justified, at least fully comprehensible. He keeps the sort of pieced-together family that we immediately recognize, a laughing, good-natured household of which Cromwell is the loving and beloved patriarch.

Cromwell is a working class underdog, using his wits to prevail among the titled idiots of Henry VIII's court. Mostly, we appreciate his resourcefulness, his bold machinations. We love Cromwell because he is so fun to watch. He shows us something we deeply want to see about the human capacity for genius. ( )
  weedlit | Jul 16, 2014 |
A revisionist history of Cromwell ... assuming you know his original history! They say show, don't tell, and we're told how brilliant our hero is rather more than we're shown, for my liking. But being taken into a king's confidence - fictional or no - is still enough of a rush to sustain these hundreds of pages. ( )
  alexrichman | Jul 8, 2014 |
A thoroughly immersing recreation of the world of Henry VIII. The centers around Thomas Cromwell (in fact "he" is present in every scene, and will return to the subject of "he" below) who in the opening scene flees his abusive blacksmith father and appears nearly thirty years later as a trusted aide to Cardinal Wolsey. Cromwell survives Wolsey's fall from grace and execution and continues his upward trajectory, ending this book as Master of the Rolls and the King's closest confidante.

Another character provides an apt description of Cromwell, juxtaposing him to Cardinal Wolsey: "When the Cardinal came to a closed door he would flatter it--oh beautiful yielding door! Then he would try tricking it open. And you are just the same... But in the last resort you just kick it in."

Integral to Cromwell's success is living at a time of change and upheaval, without being steeped in the traditions of monarchy and the church he has no trouble facilitating Henry VIII's annulment from his first wife, organizing the break of the Church of England from Rome, and executing all of those, like Thomas More, that do not fully go along.

Although the book centers around Cromwell, much of that is used as a perspective to retell some of the most familiar stories from the period, although all with a slightly different perspective. Mantel wears her history lightly, telling the story mostly through dialogue with no length digressions to show of her research. But her characters are so vivid and well drawn, and their psychology simultaneously so nuanced but also bound by those times, that it feels very authentic.

And now for the only complaint, to return to the issue of "he." For some reason that someone somewhere no doubt understands and appreciates, outside of dialogue Cromwell is only referred to as "he." It can make for confusing reading because in any given paragraph you are often not sure if the "he" refers to Cromwell or another character. It gets easier as the book moves along and you understand it, but I don't know why Mantel did not go fully to the first person (which de facto is already the perspective of the book) or just follow the normal rules when using names. ( )
  nosajeel | Jun 21, 2014 |
I know I'm behind the fair with this one; everybody else read it some time ago. But now I have, I can say I enjoyed it immensely, carried along on the story of Tom Cromwell like a cork bobbing in the river. It isn't the real Cromwell, of course: Mantel's Cromwell thinks and speaks like a modern man, not as the real one would have done. And thus we take his part, and feel we understand him, which more than likely we should not have done had we encountered the real man. The Tudor age is not 'my period', as they say, but I know enough of the events of the time to follow the story and understand the situations and allusions, and remember who is who, and I think that knowledge is essential to enjoying this book.

Finally, I do not know if Cromwell really did call out Thomas More for his bloody hypocrisy (at his hearing in the Tower), but I hope he did; somebody should have done. ( )
  sloopjonb | May 24, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 419 (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.
 

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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.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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, 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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