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Wolf Hall [Audio CD]

Hilary Mantel , Simon Slater
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
Price: CDN$ 54.56 & FREE Shipping. Details
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Book Description

Nov. 24 2009

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.


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Review

2010 AUDIE AWARD FINALIST: LITERARY FICTION
iTUNES: BEST AUDIOBOOKS OF 2009
THE WASHINGTON POST: TOP AUDIOS OF 2009
AUDIOFILE MAGAZINE EARPHONES AWARD WINNER
 
Praise for the audio edition of WOLF HALL:
 
“The 2009 Man Booker Prize-winning novel about Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII’s fixer and counselor has been brilliantly served by English actor (and composer) Simon Slater. He gives an ironic, Machiavellian edge to his voice as general narrator and renders the myriad characters with exceptional virtuosity. This performance is the best of the year: an absolute triumph, further enhancing an already magnificent novel.”  – The Washington Post, Top Audio Books of ’09
 
“Set aside a full day to savor Simon Slater’s delightful reading of the Booker Prize-winning tale of Henry VIII’s court, seen through the eyes of his adviser Thomas Cromwell…Slater’s narration is nuanced and precise; he breathes feeling and subtle shades of emotion into every exchange of dialogue. His is a heroic undertaking, and he does admirable justice to Mantel’s lucid prose and juicy plot.” – Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
 
“Slater seems to inhabit Cromwell’s very soul, his voice imbued with urbane assurance, dark despair, calculating ambition, and sardonic wit. Each character rings true…Mantel’s masterpiece, winner of the Man Booker Prize for Fiction, 2009, entrances with a gripping immediacy that carries listeners to a cliff-hanger ending, leaving fans clamoring for a sequel.” –Booklist, Starred Review
 
“Simon Slater’s inspired narration of this year’s Booker Prize novel, set in the court of Henry VIII, is on every count one of this year’s outstanding audiobooks.” – AudioFile, Earphones Award Winner
 
“Read by Simon Slater in possibly the best performance of his career, Wolf Hall...never ceases to be gripping...the best audio book of the year.” – The Winston-Salem Journal
 
“Simon Slater does a masterful job of capturing Mantel’s abundant and diverse characters.” – Newsday
 
“Simon Slater’s reading is equal to Mantel’s masterpiece, his voice shifting to match each speaker, with touches of rough British dialect, German and French accents expertly handled.” – BookPage, Audio of the Month
 
"Simon Slater's performance brings Thomas Cromwell out of history and into humanity." – FictionAudiobooks
 
"If you haven't read the most absorbing, beautifully written book of 2009, wait no longer. Better yet, listen to it, for you cannot imagine the 16th century coming to life as it does in the hands of author Hilary Mantel and reader Simon Slater in Wolf Hall." - Newark Star Ledger
 
"Mantel gets the rich pageantry and conniving schemes just right in her richly detailed historical saga, and Slater gets Mantel just right as well. His reading does justice to the novel's language, slipping into character voices as deftly as Cromwell negotiated court politics." - Library Journal

“Listeners unfamiliar with British history will find Slater’s present-tense narration, as told through Cromwell’s perspective, an ideal method of storytelling, turning formidable historical figures into intriguing personalities. Slater seems to inhabit Cromwell’s very soul, his voice imbued with urbane assurance, dark despair, calculating ambition, and sardonic wit.” – Booklist, Starred Review

 

About the Author

Hilary Mantel is the author of Wolf Hall, winner of the 2009 Man Booker Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award, and shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction. She is also the author of A Change of Climate, A Place of Greater Safety, Eight Months on Ghazzah Street, An Experiment in Love, The Giant, O'Brien, Fludd, Every Day Is Mother's Day, Vacant Possession, and Beyond Black, which was shortlisted for the Orange Prize. She has also written a memoir, Giving Up the Ghost. Winner of the Hawthornden Prize, she reviews for The New York Times, The New York Review of Books, and the London Review of Books. She lives in England.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
54 of 56 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Just remember to pace yourself.... Oct. 25 2009
By Misfit TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Author Hilary Mantel gives the reader a new take on that oft told tale of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn by showing it through the eyes of Thomas Cromwell, who despite humble beginnings was able to raise himself very high while aiding Henry VIII to rid himself of Katherine of Aragon in "The King's Great Matter", as well as his involvement in the Reformation and destruction of the monasteries and abbeys (to his own great gain). I think most of us have read enough about Henry and his six wives and know the basics, as well as enough reviewers have come before me so I don't need to rehash it all again. I'm just here to give my two cents on the book.

While I did enjoy a fresh take on this period, seeing it through the eyes of Cromwell, as well as seeing him interact with his wife, children and other family members, I did find the present tense very distracting and I had a difficult time getting started. Frankly, I picked up (and finished) four different books in between periods working on this one - although one covering the same period helped me a great deal as it served as a *refresher course* on who and what Cromwell was.

I found I couldn't read it during the work week at the end of the day when my brain was tired as well as on weekends when it was getting too close to bedtime - I put it down and read something lighter. That said, by the time I hit page 150 or so I was enjoying it a great deal and eventually I wasn't bothered the present tense at all, nor the excessive use of referring to Cromwell as "he" (it will drive you nuts at first).

I've seen this book described as a "rich meaty stew" and that's pretty much how I approached it, I took it in small bites over several weeks instead of gorging myself all at once and getting heartburn (reader burnout).
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wolf Hall: A Passport back in Time June 8 2013
Format:Paperback
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel is a passport taking you 500 years into the past to follow the career of Thomas Cromwell, son of a common smith, who we meet first as a child fleeing his abusive father. Mantel skips over the years when Cromwell is by turns soldier, traveller, merchant and student, during which he learns courage, cunning, half a dozen languages including Latin and Greek, and a shrewd grasp of the law -- all of which lead to his becoming right hand man to Cardinal Wolsey, who is the most powerful man in England, excepting only Henry, who he serves devotedly.

Henry VIII is secure on his throne, but he lacks a male heir. His first wife, Katherine of Aragon, has produced a daughter, Mary, but Henry needs a son. Henry turns to Wolsey to get him a divorce.

Mantel takes us into the family feuds, the political intrigues, the international machinations and the theological debates of the Reformation that all tangle together as Cromwell serves Wolsey, and Wolsey serves the king. Henry needs to overturn the Pope's ruling that allowed him to marry his brother's widow Katherine, so that he can put her aside and marry Ann Boleyn with whom Henry has fallen in love. Wolsey fails, is disgraced and dies, but Cromwell goes on to engineer the events that lead to Henry's marriage to Ann, the birth of their daughter who will be Elizabeth I, and the establishment of the Church of England headed by Henry.

In Mantel's account, Cromwell is a church-going agnostic, pragmatically aware of the power of faith in the life and politics of his time. He is a political fixer, strategist and designer of laws. He is essentially the first English civil servant: neither a churchman nor a member of the nobility.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My second time through Jan. 6 2011
Format:Hardcover
I originally borrowed this from the library, as a new book with a 2-week loan period (no renewals). I got to page 500-and-something before I had to relinquish it back to the long line of waiting cheapskates.

So I finally broke down and bought it, and realized that I needed to start from the beginning.

And I am glad I did.

I've read the negative reviews - too hard to read, the story wanders, sometimes you can't tell who's talking. Yes, it's a challenging read. But most worthwhile pursuits are difficult; if we could all win at Wimbledon, it wouldn't be much of an accomplishment.

Typically, the greater the effort, the greater the reward, and Wolf Hall is no exception. I will say that, as someone born in the 60's, who reads, on average, a book or more a week, this is by far the best (fiction) book I've ever read. Ever.

And it's not because I am fascinated by this period of English history - I have no interest in King Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, or Cardinal Wolsey. I watched a couple of episodes of the first season of the Tudors before my attention wandered.

It's the semi-stream-of-consciousness writing, elaborately and perfectly fleshed out with details. Each character is fully inhabited and perfectly expressed by the author. As I read Wolf Hall, I often stopped and pondered what I had just read in disbelief. How could someone could be so imaginative and creative as to write it, and express it in such an elegant and simple way?

Read it slowly, and carefully, and it may become the best book you've ever read as well.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
VERY GOOD. TOLD ME MORE ABOUT CROMWELL THAN I K NEW
Published 1 month ago by DOROTHY CARMICHAEL
1.0 out of 5 stars This was a slog.
I did not enjoy this book. I felt like I was plodding through the story and was forcing myself to read.
Published 4 months ago by Connie Flett
5.0 out of 5 stars Review of Wolf Hall
Loved it. Thomas Cromwell is an exceptional and interesting person and we see the events of Henry VIII times through Cromwell's experiences - a refreshing change. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Ora Wood
3.0 out of 5 stars Good English History but quite deep
The story is quite deep for me, and so many characters.
I love history but I guess I need something a little lighter.
Published 5 months ago by DECampbell
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely Fabulous
This is one off the best (if not the best) historical fiction I've ever read. The research was flawless and the writing superb. The Tudor era is a fascinating one.
Published 6 months ago by A. Nonny Mouse
5.0 out of 5 stars fantastic!
Amazing feat of writing. Cromwell comes to life as a real human, a genius, aware of so much, but what is ultimately being woven around him. Brilliant!
Published 12 months ago by G. Yun
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
This was recommended to me, I read it , ordered the sequel, ordered the sequel to Wolf Hall, now waiting for the sequel to Bring up the Bodies. Read more
Published 14 months ago by russ major
5.0 out of 5 stars Wolf Hall
I was given this book when it was first published but I had lent it and not got it back and so this was a replacement - it's a terrific read.
Published 18 months ago by Richard Holland
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read
Thoroughly enjoyed this book. It gives great insight into the politics and treachery of the reign of Henry VIII. A must read for those who enjoy books set in England in this era.
Published 19 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow!
This is a truly great book. The characters are live and real, their motivations make sense - something often missing from fictional treatments of Thomas Cromwell, especially - and... Read more
Published 19 months ago by Charlene Vickers
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