- Paperback: 672 pages
- Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers; 1st Edition edition (Sept. 26 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 155468773X
- ISBN-13: 978-1554687732
- Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 4.4 x 22.9 cm
- Shipping Weight: 703 g
- Average Customer Review: 66 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #203,011 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Wolf Hall Paperback – Sep 26 2009
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"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
"A stunning book. It breaks free of what the novel has become nowadays. I can't think of anything since Middlemarch which so convincingly builds a world." --Diana Athill
`This is a beautiful and profoundly human book, a dark mirror held up to our own world. And the fact that its conclusion takes place after the curtain has fallen only proves that Hilary Mantel is one of our bravest as well as our most brilliant writers.' --Olivia Laing, Observer
`As soon as I opened the book I was gripped. I read it almost non-stop. When I did have to put it down, I was full of regret that the story was over, a regret I still feel. This is a wonderful and intelligently imagined retelling of a familiar tale from an unfamiliar angle.' --The Times
`Mantel is a writer who sees the skull beneath the skin, the worm in the bud, the child abuse in the suburbs and the rat in the mattress...Turning her attention to Tudor England, she makes that world at once so concrete you can smell the rain-drenched wool cloaks...This is a splendidly ambitious book...I wait greedily for the sequel, but "Wolf Hall" is already a feast.' --Daily Telegraph
About the Author
HILARY MANTEL is the author of thirteen books, including A Place of Greater Safety, Beyond Black and the memoir Giving Up the Ghost. Her two most recent novels, Wolf Hall and its sequel Bring up the Bodies, have both been awarded the Man Booker Prize—an unprecedented achievement.See all Product description
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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. If you have seen Cromwell only as the man who was responsible for the death of Sir (or Saint, if you prefer) Thomas More, be prepared to reconsider or at least modify your views, because Mantel achieves the supreme goal of historic fiction: she so immerses you in the spirit of the time that you see from the perspectives of the historical figures she portrays and understand Thomas' from his point of view. This is sharply different from those who offer only a well-researched romp through history with occasional cameo appearances by well-known names, dressed for Hollywood, and talking modern English with an occasional "forsooth" tossed in for effect. Mantel's characters were real people who she brings back to life so vividly, that even when we know the outcome in advance, we share Cromwell's anxiety at each moment when his fate, as well as that of his king and country, hang between plan and outcome.
Mantel bends novelistic convention by referring to Cromwell as "he" while giving us his point of view as a first-person observer and participant. It took a little while for me to get used to the technique, but soon I was experiencing the unfolding present as if Cromwell were writing the story modestly himself. This stylistic trick lets us see the details of life in the time of the Tudors through contemporary eyes, rather than the fall-back position of many historical novelists who laboriously tell us how different then was from now.
Wolf Hall is a psychodrama, not an action thriller. Murders, executions, births, wars and assassinations take place off stage. We experience them through Cromwell's consciousness and feel his reactions. The historic events are important to him, of course, but so are his glimpse of Mary Boleyn's green stockings, or his tenderness towards the child Jane Seymour, who we know and he doesn't, will be Henry's third wife -- and the only one of the six to die naturally.
The book ends well before the death of Ann Boleyn, leaving me wanting 650 pages more in Bring Up the Bodies, the sequel.
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