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Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

Wolf Hall (original 2009; edition 2010)

by Hilary Mantel

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
7,277454489 (3.98)4 / 1625
Title:Wolf Hall
Authors:Hilary Mantel
Info:Fourth Estate (2010), Edition: First Picador Edition First Printing, Paperback, 674 pages

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. 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
    Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII by David Starkey (souloftherose)
  8. 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.
  9. 41
    Beyond Black by Hilary Mantel (otherstories)
  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. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 20
    The Mirror and the Light (Thomas Cromwell, #3) by Hilary Mantel (guurtjesboekenkast)
  14. 53
    Dark Fire by C. J. Sansom (brenzi)
    brenzi: Another book concerning the Henry VIII and Thomas Chromwell.
  15. 31
    The Marriage of Meggotta by Edith Pargeter (Osbaldistone)
  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
    The Children's Book by A. S. Byatt (kidzdoc)
  19. 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.
  20. 11
    Sarum by Edward Rutherfurd (guurtjesboekenkast)

(see all 23 recommendations)


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English (439)  Dutch (4)  Swedish (3)  German (3)  Italian (2)  Hebrew (1)  Danish (1)  Finnish (1)  Norwegian (1)  Catalan (1)  French (1)  All languages (457)
Showing 1-5 of 439 (next | show all)
magnificent. vivid, emotional, dense, easy to read, just fantastic. i did not want it to end. ( )
  Caryn.Rose | Mar 18, 2015 |
Political machinations. Sexual intrigue. Fiery martyrdoms. Bloody executions. Bawdy, bold, and merciless, this is the age of the Tudors, the early days of the Reformation, when England was being remade from the inside out. In Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel follows the rise of Thomas Cromwell from his humble origins as a blacksmith's son to one of Henry V's most powerful courtiers. Along the way we get fascinating portraits of the key figures at court: Henry himself, Anne Boleyn, Katherine, Mary Tudor, Mary Boleyn, Thomas Boleyn, Norfolk, More, Audley, Wolsey, Cranmer, and others. I never knew so much about this period of history before.

Cromwell is an enigma, brought to life so deftly in this novel. There's no doubt about his abilities or ambition, and it's astonishing how far he rose in a time when upward social mobility was almost impossible. Certainly he was a politically astute opportunist and somewhat of a bully, but he is also oddly attractive in this telling, with a wry humor and self-deprecating inner voice. No one knew much about his past life besides his lowly birth. He was the man of business for Charles Wolsey, cardinal of the church and Lord Chancellor, until Wolsey fell from favor. Despite his well-known loyalty to Wolsey, Cromwell seems to have slowly stepped into his old master's shoes at court. Religiously, it seems he was sympathetic toward the Reformers and read their works, even while enforcing the will of the Catholic king known as the Defender of the Faith. A man of many contradictions.

Mantel's style is hard to describe. Regular conversations suddenly break off and are continued as narrative descriptions, random musings and memories interject with the story but somehow complement it — like a person's wandering thoughts in the midst of everyday business. Some of the descriptions of torture and martyrdom, while never gratuitous, will bother me for awhile. Mantel is certainly a master of her craft and her cast of characters live and breathe.

Wolf Hall has been touted as one of the best novels of recent years, and despite my dislike of its coarse language and content, I'd have to agree. Well written and steeped in the ideas, habits, and culture of the times, it is one of the more memorable historical novels I've ever read. ( )
  wisewoman | Mar 7, 2015 |
What a fabulous book - it will be a long "read" because the content and the writing BOTH deserve time and attention. Actually, I started the book over the Christmas holidays and ALMOST finished it, then got busy at work and did not want to "hurry" to finish such a great book, so I put it down in January and just read the last 50 pages or so this week-end (June 2010). This book makes history come to life. ( )
  anitatally | Feb 7, 2015 |
I loved this book. I found Hilary Mantel's imagining of Thomas Cromwell's inner life believable. She made him human and sympathetic. I liked her depiction of the women at Henry VIII's court - at a time when intelligent women had no means of gaining an education and taking on positions held by men, Mantel's understanding of their ambitions and opportunities goes beyond mere scheming. I also appreciated Mantel's treatment of those not born into aristocracy, her presentation of their interplay with the ruling classes, and her sympathy for their position. I've read reviews criticising Mantel's writing style, her use of 'he' to signify Cromwell, her odd use of grammar, but it didn't bother me. It fitted the story she was telling, it gave a sense of compulsion and stopped it being dry. I felt I was there with Cromwell every step of the way. ( )
  missizicks | Feb 7, 2015 |
Call it Tom and Jane and Henry and Anne and Mary and Richard and, well, more Toms and Marys. They all want to kill or screw or marry or divorce or scheme or plot against one another. Hillary Mantel takes on the Herculian task of settling down this oft told tale of Henry VIII, and certainly presents much of it beautifully. But it is overly long, confuses the reader, and makes too little effort to help the reader keep all the players strait.

Could have been great at half the length and if she hadn't used "he" to describe Cromwell's thoughts and actions in the very same context that she was also referring to other male characters. So, often, the reader must ask, "who the hell does 'he' refer to?" That said, she presents Cromwell in a fairly positive light, which I hadn't seen before, and effectively captures the subtle changes that come about in his character as he tries to steer a sex and power hungry king, a most inconvenient divorce, complicated relations with a changing shape of European powers, and of course the break with Rome. ( )
1 vote rongeigle | Jan 21, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 439 (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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'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
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, a
Complex figure: shrewd, clever,
Kind, loyal, witty.

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)

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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)

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