Winner of the Man Booker Prize 2009 'Lock Cromwell in a deep dungeon in the morning,' says Thomas More, 'and when you come back that night he'll be sitting on a plush cushion eating larks' tongues, and all the gaolers will owe him money.' England, the 1520s. Henry VIII is on the throne, but has no heir. Cardinal Wolsey is his chief advisor, ...
Winner of the Man Booker Prize 2009 'Lock Cromwell in a deep dungeon in the morning,' says Thomas More, 'and when you come back that night he'll be sitting on a plush cushion eating larks' tongues, and all the gaolers will owe him money.' 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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Although this book won awards, I have reservations about why it did so. Proper grammar? check. Good editing? check. Historical accuracy? . . . maybe. But who could tell from the way it is written? I had to drag out a history book to put the pieces together.
The novel is a tale spun as though you are viewing another person's dream, wandering in and out of personal and public areas of thought in a single paragraph not clarified by quotation marks. Most of the time there is no clear delineation between the character's actual thought, the imagination of the author, or dream-like state among several characters interacting in a surreal situation, leaving you to wonder if such ever took place, or only was something the character hoped would take place, but never did.
In short, it is a confusing read.
If you like reading something and never really being sure what's going on, then this book is for you. It will help to watch the video production along with reading the book. They need each other to help clarify what is going on.
Aug 1, 2013
The other Cromwell
A marvelous book - I imagine reading it over and over. Hilary Mantel has produced a look at the Renaissance in Britain that was so engaging, I had trouble putting the book down but I didn't want it to end, so I rationed my reading. I wanted to move in with Thomas and take care of him.
Jul 5, 2013
Great historical novel
Mantel did her homework in researching the historical background of this novel. The characters come alive and they reflect accurately what we know about the real historical individuals. Great stuff although the revisionist scholars of the English Reformation will hate it.
Feb 28, 2013
One of the best books I have ever read, not just one of the best historical novels. Elegant writing, masterful characterizations, and fascinating plot.
Feb 21, 2013
History with a different slant
Well worth a read; it gives you a view from the 'man in the street' at the time of Henry 8th as well as the goings on in court and behind the scenes.
Publishers Weekly, 2010-01-25 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. Mantel's revisionist take turns Cromwell-so frequently vilified as in A Man for All Seasons-into a modern sort of hero, shrewd and adaptable. 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. A Holt hardcover (Reviews, Aug. 17). (Dec.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Publishers Weekly, 2009-08-17 Henry VIII's challenge to the church's power with his desire to divorce his queen and marry Anne Boleyn set off a tidal wave of religious, political and societal turmoil that reverberated throughout 16th-century Europe. Mantel boldly attempts to capture the sweeping internecine machinations of the times from the perspective of Thomas Cromwell, the lowborn man who became one of Henry's closest advisers. Cromwell's actual beginnings are historically ambiguous, and Mantel admirably fills in the blanks, portraying Cromwell as an oft-beaten son who fled his father's home, fought for the French, studied law and was fluent in French, Latin and Italian. Mixing fiction with fact, Mantel captures the atmosphere of the times and brings to life the important players: Henry VIII; his wife, Katherine of Aragon; the bewitching Boleyn sisters; and the difficult Thomas More, who opposes the king. Unfortunately, Mantel also includes a distracting abundance of dizzying detail and Henry's all too voluminous political defeats and triumphs, which overshadows the more winning story of Cromwell and his influence on the events that led to the creation of the Church of England. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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