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Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

Wolf Hall (2009)

by Hilary Mantel

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Wolf Hall Trilogy (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
10,318580465 (3.98)4 / 2021
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.
  1. 141
    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. 100
    The Autobiography of Henry VIII: With Notes by His Fool, Will Somers by Margaret George (napaxton)
  4. 113
    Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel (zhejw)
  5. 91
    The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Alison Weir (ijustgetbored)
  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. 50
    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. 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.
  9. 41
    Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII by David Starkey (souloftherose)
  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. 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.
  12. 20
    The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel (guurtjesboekenkast)
  13. 31
    The Marriage of Meggotta by Edith Pargeter (Osbaldistone)
  14. 42
    Beyond Black by Hilary Mantel (otherstories)
  15. 20
    The Life of Thomas More by Peter Ackroyd (napaxton)
  16. 10
    Hild by Nicola Griffith (wandering_star)
  17. 10
    The Corn King and the Spring Queen by Naomi Mitchison (Anonymous user)
  18. 21
    Sarum by Edward Rutherfurd (guurtjesboekenkast)
  19. 43
    Dark Fire by C. J. Sansom (brenzi)
    brenzi: Another book concerning the Henry VIII and Thomas Chromwell.
  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)

To Read (73)

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English (562)  Dutch (6)  German (3)  Swedish (3)  Italian (2)  French (2)  Danish (1)  Norwegian (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (581)
Showing 1-5 of 562 (next | show all)
gave up reading this. was interesting but written in an obscure way such that i could never figure out who was the current character in question and who was talking to who. ( )
  aabtzu | May 18, 2020 |
Probably the best living British author. Genius writing and a great start to the trilogy. ( )
  MandaN | Apr 25, 2020 |
just finished listening to the [Wolf Hall] (Hilary Mantel) audiobook. its about the rise of Oliver Cromwell, and its so very british, very deliciously political ^_^ even though Cromwell is the main character, i was entranced by the women in the story (Anne and Mary Boleyn, Catherine of Aragon, even Jane Seymour). They were women trapped in their moment in history, and while i dont think i can judge their actions, I like how they push against their boxes anyway and are arguably just as decadent, cunning, and dangerous as the men. i have to find the TV adaptation! ^_^ ( )
  riida | Apr 17, 2020 |
I finally finished my reread of this. I can’t remember the last time I spent this long on a single book, which I’ll chalk up to losing my two-hour-a-day commute, and also to the fact that about halfway through, I discovered the excellent online Wolf Hall book club over at the Washington Post, led by culture writers Alyssa Rosenberg and Eugene Robinson. I’ve been spending almost as much time with that discussion as I did with the book, and since it runs through May 11, I’ll be going back to it.

I have to say, this was a great book for me right now, though—I needed something that would absorb all my attention and take my head away from the world of 2020. And I just adore Thomas Cromwell as Mantel has written him. Maybe not something I should admit so readily, but I relate to him in a way—his ambition, his regard for social capital, the way he works to balance his pride in what he's made of himself and his strengths and his intelligence with the gentle parts of his nature. Obviously I'm not responsible for burning people at the stake, and hope my personal balance sheet comes out better than his did, but there's something about him that clicks with me. And the writing is absolutely brilliant from start to finish. ( )
1 vote lisapeet | Apr 17, 2020 |
To be honest, my main reason for liking this book is due to my partiality to history.

And knowing a little about some of the stories and characters from the Tudor period, I was interested to see what story Mantel would weave around these familiar settings. In particular, with so many other fictionalised accounts of some of these characters, it was fascinating to see another take on them. Perhaps due more than a little to the influence of "A Man for All Seasons" and his biography by his son-in-law, Thomas More is usually portrayed as a saintly man, and Cromwell as scheming and amoral. When such characters are so entrenched in popular culture, it's hard to introduce any other portrayal successfully, but Mantel has succeeded for me.

The character of Cromwell is not completely convincing at all times, perhaps because his perspective is seen as so utterly without malice even when his actions say otherwise. While it is understandable that the man would see his own motivations as reasonable, the character is often lacking an emotional perspective that his words and actions betray. Some of this is no doubt due to the inevitable cognitive dissonance on my part between the "nice" Cromwell Mantel gives us, and the villain that is the more popular character we are all familiar with. But Cromwell's own thoughts are too often unexplained or too sparse for us to make proper sense of.

Which brings me to one point of personal annoyance. While this is no doubt a stylistic choice, Mantel often does not tell us who is speaking, which can make following a conversation somewhat difficult, as it is not always clear from the content and context whose words I am reading. This does force the reader to think about the conversation more carefully and in ways they would perhaps otherwise not, but it is more often than not just confusing for the sake of an unnecessary stylistic conceit.

Reading this book is not a little unlike watching a movie of a book you've read: you know what's going to happen, but you still want to know how we'll be brought to the inevitable conclusion. The journey may be familiar, but Mantel has managed to put a flesh gloss on the scenery to make it interesting. ( )
  Joonsik | Apr 12, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 562 (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 (44 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Mantel, Hilaryprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
slater, simonNarratorsecondary authorsome 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. 27 B.C.
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: from
historical figure to
man of flesh and blood.
A court of bared fangs,
Who will survive the scheming,
In this hall of wolves?

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