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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
8,272511379 (3.98)4 / 1753
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)

  1. 121
    Dissolution by C. J. Sansom (gypsysmom)
  2. 143
    The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet: A Novel 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. 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. 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. 22
    A Bloody Field by Shrewsbury by Edith Pargeter (ansate)
    ansate: Different time period, but another fantastically written historical novel
  20. 22
    The Children's Book by A. S. Byatt (kidzdoc)

(see all 23 recommendations)

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English (503)  Dutch (4)  Swedish (3)  German (3)  French (2)  Italian (2)  Danish (1)  Hebrew (1)  Norwegian (1)  Finnish (1)  Catalan (1)  All languages (522)
Showing 1-5 of 503 (next | show all)
Mantel makes Thomas Cromwell, King Henry, Anne and other characters come to life, and makes historical writing contemporary. ( )
  siok | Aug 19, 2016 |
After all I had heard about this book, I expected better. The narrative, told from the viewpoint of a third person outside Thomas Cromwell, was confusing. She did manage to show Cromwell as a sympathetic character. ( )
  flewtist | Aug 1, 2016 |
I did not finish the book. Although the historical details were interesting, the writing style was just too tedious for me. It was very difficult to keep track of the characters and discern which one was speaking throughout the narrative(s).

Please note that I did eventually listen to and love the audio version of Wolf Hall. Simon Slator was an amazing narrator! ( )
  LisaAnn805 | Jul 23, 2016 |
Wolf Hall pops up in several lists of best historical fiction ever, but I got turned to it by Kim Stanley Robinson, who mentioned it in an interview as superb – together with Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey–Maturin series. It is the first book in a planned trilogy spanning the life of Thomas Cromwell, advisor to Henry VIII, and famous for having had a hand in the creation of the Anglican church, as well as in the downfall of both Thomas More and Anne Boleyn.

Wolf Hall sketches the events of Tudor England up until 1535. Sequel Bringing Up The Bodies was published in 2012 and won a Man Booker Prize too. The Mirror And The Light will cover the last 4 years of Cromwell’s life and has yet to be published.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book’s 650 pages. It should appeal to lots of fantasy fans too, as the character of Thomas Cromwell makes for quite a hero. He is the first low born man to rise to such high stature in the English realm, an exceptional figure. What makes him remarkable is his intelligence: he is one of the first English people to notice the importance of the emerging financial, monetary world; speaks numerous languages; has a keen sense of the ways of humans that help him in his powerbrokering. Plus, he is a bit of a vagabond: fleeing an abusive father, he was a mercenary for the French, travelled through the Low Countries, and ended up serving a Florentine banker. Stranger than fiction indeed, a character that could have been plucked out of whatever court fantasy. It is the other way around of course, as most subpar fantasy is just medieval history with dragons.

Obviously historians are still debating this and that, and writing about history willy-nilly leads to making choices. Hillary Mantel paints a Thomas Cromwell in a more or less sympathetic light – contrary to commonly held beliefs. He mourns his wife and daughters that die too early, he is a loyal servant to his first English patron, cardinal Wolsey, he struggles with memories of his father, feels for Thomas More’s family, etc. Reviewers writing that they didn’t get to see Cromwell’s emotions haven’t read carefully enough. The emotions are there, and they are one of the many strengths of the book.

Hilary Mantel knows she writes fiction, makes choices. She admits so on the final but one page, in a passage that is obviously meta, yet fits the story and the thoughts of her Cromwell well – all of the last 50 or so pages are truly exquisite, moving, final.

He knows different now. It’s the living that turn and chase the dead. The long bones and skulls are tumbled from their shrouds, and words like stones thrust into their rattling mouths: we edit their writings, we rewrite their lives.

Still, even after 650 pages, Cromwell stays an elusive character. He is a mystery to himself, and multiple persona in one body – as we all are, I guess. It is to Mantel’s credit she has managed to paint somebody complex, without resorting to vagueness, without the painted figure out of focus, and at the same time without being too obvious about Cromwell’s complexity. The two following passages are among the very few that explicitly, overtly talk about his inner life.

He Thomas, also Tomos, Tommaso and Thomas Cromwell, withdraws his past selves into his present body and edges back to where he was before. His single shadow slides against the wall, a visitor not sure of his welcome. Which of these Thomases saw the blow coming?

&

I shall not indulge More, he thinks, or his family, in any illusion that they understand me. How could that be, when my workings are hidden from myself?

So yes, Wolf Hall is an ‘English’ book, subtle – as the cliché goes. Plus, occasionally brutal and upfront – the times were harsh, and Mantel doesn’t romanticize. Subtle, brutal, and funny too! Although it’s not a court drama, Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell would be a good fantasy counterpart.

There’s so much to say about this book. In the remainder, I’ll focus on the conflict between two world views underlying the novel, and some remarks on Mantel’s style.

Please read the full review on Weighing A Pig ( )
1 vote bormgans | Jul 19, 2016 |
After all I had heard about this book, I expected better. The narrative, told from the viewpoint of a third person outside Thomas Cromwell, was confusing. She did manage to show Cromwell as a sympathetic character. ( )
  flewtist | Jul 9, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 503 (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
Hilary Mantelprimary 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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References to this work on external resources.

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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:44 -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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