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Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
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Wolf Hall (2009)

by Hilary Mantel

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Wolf Hall Trilogy (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
9,607556471 (3.98)4 / 1869
Recently added byprivate library, rena75, RainbowCenter, RickWaggener, wendell.ang, chrisottolino, NinieB
  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. 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
    The Corn King and the Spring Queen by Naomi Mitchison (Anonymous user)
  17. 21
    Sarum by Edward Rutherfurd (guurtjesboekenkast)
  18. 43
    Dark Fire by C. J. Sansom (brenzi)
    brenzi: Another book concerning the Henry VIII and Thomas Chromwell.
  19. 00
    Hild by Nicola Griffith (wandering_star)
  20. 22
    The Children's Book by A. S. Byatt (kidzdoc)

(see all 24 recommendations)

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English (546)  Dutch (7)  German (3)  Swedish (3)  Italian (2)  French (2)  Danish (1)  Norwegian (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (566)
Showing 1-5 of 546 (next | show all)
Sorry but that was a bore. Took me too long to finish. ( )
  krizia_lazaro | Apr 16, 2019 |
2 1/2 stars. I listened to the audio version of this book and it often put me to sleep very quickly. The narrator was good but this give the hype, I expected more from the book itself. I was put off by how hard the author worked to make Cromwell overly sympathetic. Thankfully C. J. Sansom has just released Lamentation and I expect Lamentation to more interesting. Sansom is also a superior writer even if he doesn't get the same buzz. ( )
  KateSavage | Mar 29, 2019 |
In the ruthless arena of King Henry VIII's court, only one man dares to gamble his life to win the king's favor and ascend to the heights of political power
England in the 1520s is a heartbeat from disaster. If the king dies without a male heir, the country could be destroyed by civil war. Henry VIII wants to annul his marriage of twenty years, and marry Anne Boleyn. The pope and most of Europe opposes him. The quest for the king's freedom destroys his adviser, the brilliant Cardinal Wolsey, and leaves a power vacuum.
Into this impasse steps Thomas Cromwell. Cromwell is a wholly original man, a charmer and a bully, both idealist and opportunist, astute in reading people and a demon of energy: he is also a consummate politician, hardened by his personal losses, implacable in his ambition. But Henry is volatile: one day tender, one day murderous. Cromwell helps him break the opposition, but what will be the price of his triumph?
In inimitable style, Hilary Mantel presents a picture of a half-made society on the cusp of change, where individuals fight or embrace their fate with passion and courage. With a vast array of characters, overflowing with incident, the novel re-creates an era when the personal and political are separated by a hairbreadth, where success brings unlimited power but a single failure means death.

SUMMARY: In the ruthless arena of King Henry VIII's court, only one man dares to gamble his life to win the king's favor and ascend to the heights of political power. England in the 1520s is a heartbeat from disaster. If the king dies without a male heir, the country could be destroyed by civil war. Henry VIII wants to annul his marriage of twenty years, and marry Anne Boleyn. The pope and most of Europe opposes him. The quest for the king's freedom destroys his adviser, the brilliant Cardinal Wolsey, and leaves a power vacuum. Into this impasse steps Thomas Cromwell. Cromwell is a wholly original man, a charmer and a bully, both idealist and opportunist, astute in reading people and a demon of energy: he is also a consummate politician, hardened by his personal losses, implacable in his ambition. But Henry is volatile: one day tender, one day murderous. Cromwell helps him break the opposition, but what will be the price of his triumph? In inimitable style, Hilary Mantel presents a picture of a half-made society on the cusp of change, where individuals fight or embrace their fate with passion and courage. With a vast array of characters, overflowing with incident, the novel re-creates an era when the personal and political are separated by a hairbreadth, where success brings unlimited power but a single failure means death. ( )
  buffygurl | Mar 8, 2019 |
This is literature - it requires concentration and effort in reading. Mantel delights in Cromwell's meandering chains of thought. Bring the energy and concentration required to tackle it, and it is an intoxicating and frankly, superbly detailed, read. A lot of readers gave up according to the reviews, mainly as the cast of characters is vast, but can I beg to disagree? It's mostly based around Thomas' own family and in-laws and then those caught in his vicinity - and it is doable.

Wolf Hall is meaty - at over 640 pages, it offers a detailed, literary journey into the pitfalls and rewards of Tudor politics through the thoughts and musings of Thomas Cromwell (and the whole book is written from his viewpoint - if the novel uses He then it is nearly always Thomas), a man who started as a blacksmith's son but rose to the absolute echelons of the Tudor courts of Cardinal Wolsey and Henry VIII.

Mantel has written a tome that will take you very deeply into Tudor history - you will certainly have a deeper insight into the politics, the intrigue, and the machinations of politics then and now. Few novels dissect the road to power so effectively, every rumour, every tidbit and scrap of information, every relationship, and every move are keys to position and power. It moves the historical novel genre on from one of simply action, accuracy and plot, to complex, real, literate achievement, and, in that alone, it is an important novel.

I personally am lost in it, it is nuanced, challenging, educational, and enormous fun - it is a monster of a read, but you really do enter the Tudor realm. I can conquer most books in a week with concerted effort - this is going to be a month's read - fantastic! ( )
  johnrouse | Mar 8, 2019 |
“Only this, sir, and I think it is what gives Richard pause . . . all our lives and fortunes depend now on that lady, and as well as being mutable she is mortal, and the whole history of the king’s marriage tells us a child in the womb is not an heir in the cradle.”

The first half was utter confusion and painful. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, the poor quality of writing. Abuse of the pronoun he meant it difficult to follow what was happening. I don't ask for perfection, I recently enjoyed An American Tragedy, which many also deem to be poorly written. The problem is I needed to reread passages to understand what's happening. Judging by other reviews, it's not just me. Secondly, the novel reads like a play. Adjacent scenes are often disconnected. We are sent back and forth in time and shift between characters for no obvious reason. All this could have been better handled by writing in the first person from Cromwell's perspective.

That said, the second half picked up and I am glad I persevered. Mantel certainly has strong views on key personalities. Cromwell, who we follow the whole way (if in doubt, he is Cromwell), naturally must be likeable. We are constantly reminded of his losses and compassion. Royalty are self-centred power-seekers. Nobility are unrefined partisans and often comical. So persistent are these stereotypes that minor characters become indistinguishable: Suffolk, Norfolk, Northumberland all merge into one. Often I wish Mantel stuck with names and personalities rather than titles.

And yet, every now and then, there are witticisms which make it worthwhile. Here is one:

"So devoted is God to the cause of these gentlemen, they say, that an angel attends the sittings of Parliament with a scroll, noting down who votes and how, and smudging a sooty mark against the names of those who fear Henry more than the Almighty."

Some of the characters do stick: Cromwell, Wolsey, More, Katherine, Anne Boleyn. Be forewarned, many of them happen to be called Thomas. The interrelationship between these is definitely one of the positive highlights. For example, when Katherine defends the king against Cromwell:

"He is not a man like you, who just packs up his sins in his saddlebags and carries them from country to country, and when they grow too heavy whistles up a mule or two, and soon commands a train of them and a troop of muleteers."

Despite its name, Wolf Hall, the home of the Seymours, only figures at the end. Now that I have invested time, more than should have been necessary, to grasp the plot, I will give Bring Up the Bodies a go. ( )
  jigarpatel | Feb 27, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 546 (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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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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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)
A court of bared fangs,
Who will survive the scheming,
In this hall of wolves?
(hillaryrose7)

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 9 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.

» see all 14 descriptions

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