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Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
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Wolf Hall (original 2009; edition 2010)

by Hilary Mantel

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
7,079443508 (3.98)4 / 1558
Member:Sr_Moreno
Title:Wolf Hall
Authors:Hilary Mantel
Info:Fourth Estate (2010), Edition: 1ST, Paperback, 400 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
Tags:Henry VIII, Thomas Cromwell, Thomas More, Anne Boleyn, Historical Fiction, Reformation, Catherine of Aragon

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 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 (431)  Dutch (4)  Swedish (3)  German (3)  Italian (2)  Hebrew (1)  Danish (1)  Norwegian (1)  Catalan (1)  French (1)  All languages (448)
Showing 1-5 of 431 (next | show all)
Set in the 1520s, this historical fiction book takes a detailed look at the life of Thomas Cromwell, and the role he played in the marriage of Henry VIII to Anne Boleyn. Cromwell rose from low beginnings to being one of Henry’s closest advisors, and his dirty tricks man. Wolf Hall is full of accurate historical details, political machinations, and the creation of the Church of England. This is the first volume in a trilogy.
  ktoonen | Dec 13, 2014 |
True confession: “A Man for All Seasons” has always been my favorite movie — primarily for Robert Bolt’s language, but also because Paul Scofield played the perfect (and perfectly heroic) Thomas More.


Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall is a suitable antidote both to the film and to More’s ostensibly impeccable character. Told by one of More’s more celebrated contemporaries — namely, Thomas Cromwell — Ms. Mantel’s novel doesn’t flinch at calling a spade a spade. (Un pique anglais, bien sûr!) As Cromwell himself muses on p. 111, “More, in his pamphlets against Luther, calls the German shit. He says that his mouth is like the world’s anus. You would not think that such words could proceed from Thomas More, but they do. No one has rendered the Latin tongue more obscene.”


Rather colorful stuff, that, even if it was Hilary Mantel’s invention. I only wish that Ms. Mantel had been more careful and less monochromatic with her pronominal reference in this novel … that carelessness also being shit — the principal annoyance of which is that the reader has to eat it over and over again. My review is not alone in suggesting that you’ll likely have to read hundreds of passages a second or third time to figure out who’s saying what to whom. The pronoun ‘he’ appears so abundantly and without direct reference in this novel, it’s only when she writes ‘He’ or ‘Him’ that we can be absolutely certain whom she’s referring to — the lapsus calami of a lower case ‘him’ on p. 682 notwithstanding. What was Ms. Mantel thinking when she obviously and correctly decided to use the first person singular in Cromwell’s dialogue, but the third person singular in the narrative for that same character? If this is post-post-modern English literature (and prize-winning material to boot), then give me liberty or give me a dearth of it!


Ms. Mantel’s dialogue, more often than not, is also frustratingly cryptic. I don’t think I’m one of those readers who need to have everything spelled out in big, bold letters. And yet, I felt at times as if I were reading in a foreign language and were having to guess at what the author wanted me to understand. It would’ve been wonderful (and much less exhausting) if Ms. Mantel could’ve been just a tad more explicit. We’re not all to the manor born — and consequently don’t all speak or even understand most ‘manorese.’


One sometimes finds oneself third party to a dialogue between two insiders (where, by “insider,” I mean those who are privy to a private joke, to an industry jargon, or to something so impossibly esoteric that only a few others of the species can possibly understand it). It happens to everyone at some point or another; it just shouldn’t happen between a writer and her readers. Millions might rave about the genius of the work, but those same millions are just as likely to rave about the emperor’s new clothes.


“The room is full of undercurrents, some of which he does not understand” — Ms. Mantel tells us on p. 239. Now, if Cromwell doesn’t understand them, how the hell are we supposed to?


Add to this that Ms. Mantel sometimes uses quotation marks, sometimes she doesn’t. It’s all quite willy-nilly — and you, dear potential reader, are left to feel downright silly trying to second-guess her intent (if there even was one).


Oops! On p. 196, Ms. Mantel writes “(t)he fact does not evade him.” I rather think a Man Booker Prize winner (or at least her copy editors at Fourth Estate and/or Henry Holt and Company) should know the difference between “evade” and “escape” or “elude.” Is anyone minding the language henhouse these days besides the wolves and foxes?


But “(w)e cannot do without the man in charge,” Richard (one of Cromwell’s sons) says on p. 258 upon Cromwell’s return from what all of them feared might’ve been imprisonment or worse — and this little exchange on an occasion of family merriment and celebration reminds us that we are indeed dealing with human beings and not merely with chess pieces.


And on the very next page, even Thomas More gets into the spirit of things (upon the death of his father) with “he was the light of my life, my father.”


All of which leads, on p. 260, to a demonstration of Ms. Mantel’s stylistic abilities with “(o)utside it is sleeting. Dark flakes fall into the waters of the Thames. England stretches away from him, low red sun on fields of snow.” Three short sentences, but three majestically and evocatively short sentences: an instance in which Ms. Mantel struts (and rightfully so!) her Booker Prize-winning stuff.


Equally so once again on p. 529 with: “(t)he rocking of the boat beneath them is imperceptible. The flags are limp; it is a still morning, misty and dappled, and where the light touches flesh or linen or fresh leaves, there is a sheen like the sheen on an eggshell: the whole world luminous, its angles softened, its scent watery and green.” Of course there are countless examples of master-prose throughout the book, but I cite these as merely two examples.


I also want to thank Ms. Mantel for answering a question that has lain unanswered these 63 years (or perhaps a little less) in my good Christian breast — namely, to what end did people gawk at others’ misery The answer (on p. 326): “You get a pardon for your sins just for watching it, she said. Any that bring faggots to the burning, they get forty days’ release from Purgatory.”


What a God-fearing people won’t do in the name of religion!


(I guess this explains, too, why there were so many gawkers at street level here in NYC on September 11, 2001, all gazing up at those who jumped from the 86th floor of the Twin Towers to a speedy death. Gawking … just looking for salvation, a little respite from the sting of Purgatory.)


And in case there was still any question in my mind about the unblemished nobility of mind and spirit adhering to Thomas More by the time I’d reached the midpoint of the novel, we have this from the mind of Cromwell: “More says it does not matter if you lie to heretics, or trick them into a confession. They have no right to silence, even if they know speech will incriminate them; if they will not speak, then break their fingers, burn them with irons, hang them up by their wrists. It is legitimate, and indeed More goes further; it is blessed.”


Oops again! On p. 345, Ms. Mantel writes (in the head of Cromwell — i.e., not in dialogue): “Jane Rochford, God protect her, is one of those women who doesn’t (sic) know when to stop.” The agreement of subject and verb would appear to have gone as far astray in England as it has here in the U. S. (In case you’ve forgotten this elementary rule of grammar, ‘who,’ takes as its antecedent ‘women’ and not ‘one.’) Okay: no more wine spritzers at lunch for the copy editors either at Fourth Estate or at Henry Holt and Company!


Far be it from me to beat (much less thrash) a dead horse. And yet, we have this exchange on p. 499: “‘But why must it be written like this? And where does it say that Spanish Mary is a bastard?”

‘Lady Mary is out of the line of succession,’ he says, ‘so the inference is clear. We don’t need to say more.’”

Well, actually, the right word is neither ‘inference’ nor ‘implication,’ but ‘omission.’ And because this exchange doesn’t take place between two analphabets, but rather between Queen Anne and Thomas Cromwell (I believe … but that old business of pronominal reference leaves me wondering), we have to pin the errant tail squarely on the right donkey — in this case, on Ms. Mantel.


Oh, and did I mention anachronisms? I’m not sure that the word “fuckers” (or, in the mouth of one particular Frenchman, “fuckeurs”) existed in the sixteenth century, but maybe they did. In any case, “chivvy” (p. 519) and “sneery” (p. 520) did not — at least according to my etymological dictionary.


Let me be clear about one thing: Thomas Cromwell is no vestal virgin. But he is hardly the monster Thomas More would appear to be if Wolf Hall is to be believed — and I have no reason not to believe it. The book is historical fiction. Yet I seriously doubt that a Booker Prize would be awarded to a work of historical fiction that wandered too far afield from historical truth.


And before we leave the subject of history, I should acknowledge that Ms. Mantel clearly has a fine feel for it — and for History in the larger sense, as we can see from this passage on pp. 459-460: “After they get up from the table(,) his guests eat ginger comfits and candied fruits, and Kratzer makes some drawings. He draws the sun and the planets moving in their orbits according to the plan he has heard of from Farther Copernicus. He shows how the world is turning on its axis, and nobody in the room denies it. Under your feet(,) you can feel the tug and heft of it, the rocks groaning to tear away from their beds, the oceans tilting and slapping at their shores, the giddy lurch of Alpine passes, the forests of Germany ripping at their roots to be free. The world is not what it was when he and Vaughan were young(;) it is not what it was even in the cardinal’s day.”


If in that laudably big feel for History, she’d had an equally laudable fine feel for things like punctuation, precise word usage and pronominal reference, we would indeed have had an excellent novel from Hilary Mantel — and could have allowed ourselves to enjoy such metaphors as this one on p. 463: “(u)pstairs he closes the shutter, where the moon gapes in hollow-eyed, like a drunk lost in the street.” The Devil, however, is in the details. And so, I’ll leave two stars on Master Lucifer’s horns and give a devilishly paltry three to Wolf Hall.


RRB
08/24/14
Brooklyn, NY

( )
1 vote RussellBittner | Dec 12, 2014 |
Never enjoyed a historical novel more. Looking forward to the second and third volumes. ( )
  AThurman | Dec 7, 2014 |
I did find this quite difficult to get into in the beginning and there was another bit around two thirds of the way through where I began to flag. However, it was certainly an interesting read and a new twist on the Tudor story, making Thomas Cromwell the central figure. The history seemed consistent with my (albeit limited!) knowledge and the book was well written. ( )
  donnambr | Nov 27, 2014 |
favorite read of last couple of years. Since I don't know much about English history I was thoroughly engrossed and surprised at every turn. Read the sequel immediately: Bring Up the Bodies
  karenfleming | Nov 23, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 431 (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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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)

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