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Wolf Hall [Paperback]

Hilary Mantel
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
List Price: CDN$ 24.99
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Book Description

Sept. 16 2009

England, the 1520s. Henry VIII is on the throne, but has no heir. Cardinal Wolsey is his chief advisor, charged with securing the divorce the pope refuses to grant. Into this atmosphere of distrust and need comes Thomas Cromwell, first as Wolsey's clerk, and later his successor.

Cromwell is a wholly original man: the son of a brutal blacksmith, a political genius, a briber, a charmer, a bully, a man with a delicate and deadly expertise in manipulating people and events. Ruthless in pursuit of his own interests, he is as ambitious in his wider politics as he is for himself. His reforming agenda is carried out in the grip of a self-interested parliament and a king who fluctuates between romantic passions and murderous rages.

From one of our finest living writers, Wolf Hall is that very rare thing: a truly great English novel, one that explores the intersection of individual psychology and wider politics. With a vast array of characters, and richly overflowing with incident, it peels back history to show us Tudor England as a half-made society, moulding itself with great passion and suffering and courage.


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Product Description

Review

"A magnificent achievement: the scale of its vision and the fine stitching of its detail; the teeming canvas of characters; the style with its clipped but powerful immediacy; the wit, the poetry and the nuance."
? Sarah Dunant ()

About the Author

Hilary Mantel was born in Derbyshire. She was educated at a convent and later studied law. After ten years abroad in Africa and the Middle East, she returned to Britain in 1985 to make a career as a writer. She is working on her ninth novel.


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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
55 of 57 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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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must-read for Henry VIII era devotees Jan. 9 2010
By Zabe
Format:Paperback
Over the years I've read many biographies about Henry VIII and his wives. It is an intriguing period, and
I never get tired of a new point of view. Wolf Hall, a novel, brings yet another, and one which puts the
reader into the scene, with Cromwell leading the way. Some of the characters of the period who up until now we've only known superficially, are given voice and feelings, and as a result, a new dimension has been added.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wolf Hall Feb. 18 2010
Format:Paperback
Wolf Hall is, quite simply, a literary tour de force. Although much has been written about the momentous political and religious upheavals that marked Henry VIII's tumultuous reign, Hilary Mantel manages to deliver a refreshingly original version of these events as seen through the eyes of Thomas Cromwell, Henry's most trusted advisor and confidant. Cromwell's background as a man of humble origins who has carved out a stellar reputation as a lawyer, businessman, diplomat and political strategist makes him an ideal choice to spearhead Henry's bitter power struggle against the Church. While the historical terrain may be quite familiar, what really sets this book apart is Martel's superb attention to detail and a remarkably intimate present tense narration that draws the reader right into the story. Admitedly, this intimacy can sometimes lead to confusion, especially since Martel consistently identifies Cromwell simply as "he," even when the antecedent would seem to suggest that a different character is being referred to. On the whole, however, this technique is highly effective. We are made to experience events just as Cromwell himself does and are privy to his innermost thoughts and opinions. This, in turn, helps us to better understand the complex political climate in which these events are played out. It also gives us an opportunity to explore not only the public persona but also the private life of this enigmatic historical figure. What emerges is not the conventional portrait of Cromwell as an intellectual bully but that of a multi-faceted, charismatic man, full of personal ambition yet sympathetic to the plights of others. In Martel's skillful hands, Cromwell is transformed from a one-dimensional political animal into a highly believable flesh and blood character who is more a humanist than a villain.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent novel but you need to know the history Jan. 19 2010
By Miki
Format:Paperback
I loved this novel, it was brilliant, intelligent, witty, sad, funny, utterly captivating: really created the world of Tudor England, King Henry's court, his courtiers and mostly gave a terrific portrayal and story to Cromwell. You cannot help rooting for him with his staggering intelligence, vast experience and his kindness towards those less fortunate while he ensnares those high-born wastrels with priveledged positions into his debt.
Nevertheless, if you are not passing familiar with the facts of Henry's 'Great Matter' and the players involved, then this novel will be very confusing because there is little offered in the way of explanations of who is who and what they are after. If you watch 'The Tudors' or have read any of the histories of Henry's wives, then you will love this fictional account of history through the eyes and mind of Thomas Cromwell.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Recreating not retelling the past Nov. 27 2009
Format:Paperback
Although historical fiction is one of the most popular and prevalent genres available to us today, it is rare that we find a book that goes beyond retelling familiar stories to actually making the past come alive. We are all familiar with the story of the famous Tudor monarch who's multiple marriages are a staple of book and film, but Wolf Hall make the alien universe of 16th century England come alive to us. I found, reading this book that I could smell, hear and experience a long lost world. Mantel dares to re-imagine the roles, experiences, and stories that we thought we knew and I found her version compelling. This book is not to be compared to popular historical fiction, it is serious reading based on tremendous research and it well repays the effort made to read it.
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars A long hard slog, with interesting and illustrious material ...
A long hard slog, with interesting and illustrious material. Shines a strong light on the manners of the period, the philosophy and psychology of the royalties and their... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Ray Guy
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Will have lots to discuss at Thursdays book club season opener. Just have 200 pages more to go
Published 1 month ago by TRISH
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
VERY GOOD. TOLD ME MORE ABOUT CROMWELL THAN I K NEW
Published 3 months 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 6 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 7 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 8 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 8 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 14 months ago by G. Yun
4.0 out of 5 stars Wolf Hall: A Passport back in Time
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... Read more
Published 16 months ago by Seymour Hamilton
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 17 months ago by russ major
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