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Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (2009)

  1. 131
    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. 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 (516)  Dutch (5)  Swedish (3)  German (3)  Italian (2)  French (2)  Danish (1)  Hebrew (1)  Norwegian (1)  Finnish (1)  All (535)
Showing 1-5 of 516 (next | show all)
What I Liked
Mantel's style. She has a sort of understated humour that reminds me of Jane Austen and a slightly sideways way of looking at things: you get the impression that she is poking gentle fun at her characters, but without any kind of nastiness. She is not one of those authors who seem to spend the whole book sneering at the poor people she's pushing around. This made the book a surprisingly easy, relaxing read.

Thomas Cromwell. The early-to-mid-sixteenth century isn't one of my favoured periods, so I know who everybody is, but not enough to say whether her portrayal of Cromwell is accurate or not. Whichever, I liked him. He's ferociously intelligent, extremely tough, yet a faithful servant and a good master.

What was strangely missing
Lots of important historical events. This book is obviously about Cromwell the man, written very nearly from his point of view; we have more detail of his day-to-day dealings with his family and dependants than of historical events. Even events like the trial of Sir Thomas More happen off-page. While this gives us more time with Cromwell, it does cut down on the drama.

What I Didn't Like
Present-tense narration. Allegedly, this is meant to make the story more immediate. I don't know whether that works for anyone else, but it certainly doesn't for me. It gives the story a weird, dreamy, ephemeral feeling, as if the characters exist in an eternal now with no past and no future. It definitely cuts down on the dramatic tension for me.

It may be the present-tense thing that led to a certain amount of pronoun-confusion. "He" mostly refers to Cromwell, except when it doesn't. Since so many of the characters are male, and could therefore be "he", one does have to make the effort to keep track.

Conclusion
I'm glad I read it - I enjoyed it much more than I expected to. I may even read [b:Bring Up the Bodies|13507212|Bring Up the Bodies (Thomas Cromwell, #2)|Hilary Mantel|https://d2arxad8u2l0g7.cloudfront.net/books/1330649655s/13507212.jpg|14512257]! ( )
  T_K_Elliott | Mar 12, 2017 |
Lovely prose--Shakespearean in flavor without going overboard. Despite the plot obviously occuring in 16th century England, Mantel's window into Cromwell's mind feels very modern. Slater's perfomance makes a very long (though gripping!) listen fly by. As soon as I finished this, I immediately downloaded Bring Up The Bodies. ( )
  Soroka25 | Mar 9, 2017 |
I'm about 60 pages in, and I've just about had it with this book. I want to like it -- I love historical fiction done well, and love the time period. But the author's style is just too difficult. These opening chapters are plodding along very slowly -- partly because scenes are interrupted to recall the characters' thoughts about previous events -- events, by the way, that are not explained or given context to. Historical moments are glossed over in a way that seems clear the author presumes the reader knows to what precise historical event the author is referring.

The more maddening stylistic error, though, is the overuse of the pronoun "he," which the author uses to refer to the protagonist. The problem is that the she uses the pronoun to refer to the protagonist amid scenes in which there are multiple "he's," leaving the reader very confused.

Perfect example:

"Norris inclines his head.

He thinks, since last spring..."

("He" does not refer to Norris, but to Cromwell.)

In spots where the author has detected a problem, she writes "he, Cromwell" -- why not just write "Cromwell"?

After browsing through the comments, I believe the problems do not improve...I will be ending this sojourn through Tudor England here.
( )
  ChayaLovesToRead | Feb 15, 2017 |
This was borderline 5 stars for me. A completely gripping retelling of story you might *think* you already know. Mantel's decision to make Cromwell the protagonist of this historical fiction about the beginning of the English Reformation turns heroes into villains and villains into heroes. Thomas More is far from the man for all seasons here; instead, he's grasping, calculating, often brutal. Still, no character (including More) is entirely one-sided. I think that's what I loved most about the novel. Each character's motivations are complex, sometimes shifting, and completely believable. The book makes 16ht-century England feel at once familiar and completely alien. Wonderful! ( )
  jalbacutler | Jan 10, 2017 |
I really enjoyed this fascinating look at Tudor England. The characters really come to life and the atmosphere is so realistic that it really reads as true. This is a time I'm really interested in and Hilary Mantel's book is one of the best. Very easy to read even thoough it is a relatively large book. ( )
  Northern_Light | Dec 20, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 516 (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 editionscalculated
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.)
Disambiguation notice
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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: from
historical figure to
man of flesh and blood.
(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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