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Wolf Hall : A Novel

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In the ruthless arena of King Henry VIII's court, one man dares to gamble his life to win the king's favor and ascend to the heights of political power.

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.

Specifications

Series Title
Wolf Hall Trilogy
Publisher
Henry Holt and Co.
Book Format
Hardcover
Original Languages
English
Number of Pages
560
Author
Hilary Mantel
ISBN-13
9780805080681
Publication Date
October, 2009
Assembled Product Dimensions (L x W x H)
9.36 x 6.60 x 1.73 Inches
ISBN-10
0805080686

Customer Reviews

5 stars
43
4 stars
42
3 stars
26
2 stars
3
1 star
2
Most helpful positive review
3 customers found this helpful
Wolf Hall is extraordi...
Wolf Hall is extraordinarily good historical fiction, so good in fact that I hesitate to lump it into that genre (which all too often is a grab bag for some very poorly conceived and executed novels.) Author Hilary Mantel takes as her subject the court of Henry VIII during the period when the king was weaseling his way out of his marriage to Katherine of Aragon and into the bed of Anne Boleyn. That ground is so well trodden that it's positively threadbare, but Mantel conjures the people and atmosphere of Tudor England with such mastery it's as though you've never heard the tale before. Every person in the novel - from Thomas Cromwell (the central character) to an urchin the street - is vividly rendered and seems as real (if not more real) as your next-door neighbor. While no one will ever know the underlying motivations of all players in the turbulent drama of England's break from the Catholic Church and King Henry's messy personal life, Mantel weaves a compelling tale that is utterly believable. It's as vivid as the office politics in your own life, albeit on a grand, and very, very dangerous stage. Fantastic reading for anyone who likes a good intrigue - it won't matter if you don't know the first thing about English history. If you are interested in that moment in time, the pleasure of Wolf Hall will be all the more keen. I highly recommend.
Most helpful negative review
1 customers found this helpful
The title is misleadin...
The title is misleading in that Wolf Hall was the home of the Seymours and there isn't a great deal of them. Secondly, I found the writing choppier than the ocean on a blustery, windy day. Very, very disappointed.
Most helpful positive review
3 customers found this helpful
Wolf Hall is extraordi...
Wolf Hall is extraordinarily good historical fiction, so good in fact that I hesitate to lump it into that genre (which all too often is a grab bag for some very poorly conceived and executed novels.) Author Hilary Mantel takes as her subject the court of Henry VIII during the period when the king was weaseling his way out of his marriage to Katherine of Aragon and into the bed of Anne Boleyn. That ground is so well trodden that it's positively threadbare, but Mantel conjures the people and atmosphere of Tudor England with such mastery it's as though you've never heard the tale before. Every person in the novel - from Thomas Cromwell (the central character) to an urchin the street - is vividly rendered and seems as real (if not more real) as your next-door neighbor. While no one will ever know the underlying motivations of all players in the turbulent drama of England's break from the Catholic Church and King Henry's messy personal life, Mantel weaves a compelling tale that is utterly believable. It's as vivid as the office politics in your own life, albeit on a grand, and very, very dangerous stage. Fantastic reading for anyone who likes a good intrigue - it won't matter if you don't know the first thing about English history. If you are interested in that moment in time, the pleasure of Wolf Hall will be all the more keen. I highly recommend.
Most helpful negative review
1 customers found this helpful
The title is misleadin...
The title is misleading in that Wolf Hall was the home of the Seymours and there isn't a great deal of them. Secondly, I found the writing choppier than the ocean on a blustery, windy day. Very, very disappointed.

I was thrilled to get ...

I was thrilled to get my hands on the 2009 Booker Prize winner within just a few weeks of its US release. The first ten pages included a detailed cast of characters and a Tudor family tree, a sure sign I was diving into a rich, detailed saga. I hunkered down and was hooked from the first line, uttered by Walter Cromwell to his young son Thomas: "So now get up." From this point -- lying dazed and bloody on the pavement -- Thomas Cromwell rises to become one of King Henry VIII's most trusted advisers. The opening scene inspired him to leave his alcoholic, abusive father and go abroad, even though he was only about 15 years old. Over several years Cromwell became an astute accountant and lawyer, and the trusted adviser of Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, who held the post of Lord Chancellor in Henry VIII's early court. When Wolsey fell out of favor with the King, Cromwell was savvy enough to stay out of the fray and position himself for greatness. Thomas More then became Lord Chancellor and campaigned against English Bible translations, most notably those by William Tyndale. Cromwell, as the King's chief minister, engineered the political hocus-pocus which allowed Henry to divorce his first wife Katherine and marry Anne Boleyn. This could only be done by establishing Henry's independence from the Catholic Church. More refused to accept this, and was executed. But Wolf Hall is more than just a tale of political intrigue. Mantel takes the reader deep inside Cromwell's mind and heart. Far from being an unfeeling politician, Thomas Cromwell was a most human protagonist. He rose well above his lowly birth, and was not just literate but multi-lingual. He moved with ease among dukes and royalty, but never forgot his origins. And while he was a savvy negotiator, he also showed compassion, especially to those like More who would lose their lives as part of the English Reformation. Cromwell was also intensely devoted to his family, providing for nieces and nephews as well as his own children. As his wealth and influence grew, he was able to broker advantageous marriages for his family that continued to move them up in society. Almost single-handedly, he changed the course of history. The fate of people is made like this, two men in small rooms. Forget the coronations, the conclaves of cardinals, the pomp and processions. This is how the world changes: a counter pushed across a table, a pen stroke that alters the force of a phrase ... (p.499) The novel ends in 1535 on a high note: Henry VIII was still married to Anne, and Cromwell was at the peak of his career. And yet, anyone with even a passing knowledge of Tudor history knows of Henry's mercurial behavior. Both Anne and Cromwell would eventually fall out of favor. But that's a story for another novel, one that Mantel has hinted she intends to write. I can't wait.

I was thrilled to get ...

I was thrilled to get my hands on the 2009 Booker Prize winner within just a few weeks of its US release. The first ten pages included a detailed cast of characters and a Tudor family tree, a sure sign I was diving into a rich, detailed saga. I hunkered down and was hooked from the first line, uttered by Walter Cromwell to his young son Thomas: "So now get up." From this point -- lying dazed and bloody on the pavement -- Thomas Cromwell rises to become one of King Henry VIII's most trusted advisers. The opening scene inspired him to leave his alcoholic, abusive father and go abroad, even though he was only about 15 years old. Over several years Cromwell became an astute accountant and lawyer, and the trusted adviser of Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, who held the post of Lord Chancellor in Henry VIII's early court. When Wolsey fell out of favor with the King, Cromwell was savvy enough to stay out of the fray and position himself for greatness. Thomas More then became Lord Chancellor and campaigned against English Bible translations, most notably those by William Tyndale. Cromwell, as the King's chief minister, engineered the political hocus-pocus which allowed Henry to divorce his first wife Katherine and marry Anne Boleyn. This could only be done by establishing Henry's independence from the Catholic Church. More refused to accept this, and was executed. But Wolf Hall is more than just a tale of political intrigue. Mantel takes the reader deep inside Cromwell's mind and heart. Far from being an unfeeling politician, Thomas Cromwell was a most human protagonist. He rose well above his lowly birth, and was not just literate but multi-lingual. He moved with ease among dukes and royalty, but never forgot his origins. And while he was a savvy negotiator, he also showed compassion, especially to those like More who would lose their lives as part of the English Reformation. Cromwell was also intensely devoted to his family, providing for nieces and nephews as well as his own children. As his wealth and influence grew, he was able to broker advantageous marriages for his family that continued to move them up in society. Almost single-handedly, he changed the course of history. The fate of people is made like this, two men in small rooms. Forget the coronations, the conclaves of cardinals, the pomp and processions. This is how the world changes: a counter pushed across a table, a pen stroke that alters the force of a phrase ... (p.499) The novel ends in 1535 on a high note: Henry VIII was still married to Anne, and Cromwell was at the peak of his career. And yet, anyone with even a passing knowledge of Tudor history knows of Henry's mercurial behavior. Both Anne and Cromwell would eventually fall out of favor. But that's a story for another novel, one that Mantel has hinted she intends to write. I can't wait.

This book is a masterp...

This book is a masterpiece of historical fiction, probably the best book I've read this year, and it replaces The Glass Room as my favorite of the 2009 Booker Prize longlisted and shortlisted books. The novel starts spectacularly, as a young Thomas Cromwell is being beaten nearly to death by his blacksmith father: "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 inward towards the gate, as if someone might arrive to help him out. One blow, properly placed, could kill him now. Cromwell remains the major character of the novel, as he escapes the wrath of his father, and rises from his humble beginnings to attain fame and fortune abroad in Italy. He becomes the trusted adviser to the powerful Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, who himself is King Henry VIII's right hand man. As the second part of the novel opens, Henry is seeking permission from the Pope to divorce his first wife Katherine, who has yet to bear him a son despite nearly 20 years of marriage. He has his eye on the young Anne Boleyn, whose ego, ambitions and deviousness extend beyond the kingdom and are masterfully portrayed throughout the book. Wolsey fails in his task to have the king's marriage annulled, and is expelled from his lavish residence. Somehow, Cromwell manages to retain loyalty to the cardinal while positioning himself to make himself indispensable to Henry and avoiding the hostile plans of the king's other chief advisers, most notably Thomas More, Thomas Howard and Charles Brandon. Despite the devastating loss of his wife from the sweating sickness epidemic of 1528, and his beloved daughter in the following summer's plague, Cromwell's influence grows, as he also skillfully aligns himself to Anne and the Boleyns while maintaining his own independence and dignity. Due to Cromwell's legal acumen, Parliament grants Henry supremacy over the Church of England, and he becomes the king's chief minister. Henry takes Anne Boleyn as his second wife, but she too is unable to bear him the son that will become the rightful heir to the throne. Dissent spreads throughout and beyond the kingdom, as opponents to the king's rule over the Church and the replacement of the former Queen, including Thomas More, who replaced Wolsey as Lord High Chancellor, are imprisoned and brutally executed. Mantel's ability to place the reader in Tudor England, Henry's court and, most deliciously, Anne Boleyn's company is the most impressive aspect of this novel. A tremendous and essential aid for me was the Cast of Characters at the beginning of the book, which I referred to frequently in the first half of the novel. Wolf Hall clocks in at just over 650 pages, and it somehow seems both larger than that, yet not large enough. It is very readable and quite captivating, especially when taken in 50-100 page leisurely segments. I look forward to giving this another go in the near future, and cannot recommend it highly enough.

Charting the life of T...

Charting the life of Thomas Cromwell (missing a few areas), this was a fascinating and stunning piece of historical fiction. Having studied the Tudor era, I knew of the public persona of Cromwell but nothing else, and this character portrayal was fabulous. Starting with a bang, we watch Cromwell's rise, his fight to stay popular and also to provide good advice, his fights against those who would tear him down for being a blacksmith's son, and his personal life. He seems to have been a person of intense intelligence and charisma, who succeeded in an unparalleled rise to success, at a time in history that allowed the common man to achieve what he was capable of. Not only was this man's life fascinating, but Mantel's prose is exquisite and breathtaking, almost poetic at times in her descriptions, without being self absorbed. She invokes all the senses necessary to bring Tudor London to life, and has a talent for producing just the right detail to finish the picture and make it 3D. Despite its 650 page length, I wanted it to go on much much longer. I was gulping it down at the end, and I KNOW that I will want to reread this as soon as I have begun to digest it. There is simply so much going on within the words that it is impossible to take in the first time. Not just for lovers of historical fiction, this truly is a staggering piece of literature, and one that deserves its popularity and hype. I haven't read any of the Booker shortlist but I'm not sure any could compare anyway. If you are any kind of booklover, in terms of appreciating language and the art of good storytelling, you MUST read this book.

I have just finished r...

I have just finished reading Wow Hall, oh excuse me that should be, Wolf Hall. I must say that I was completely wowed by this historical novel of 16th century England. At its most basic it is the story of Thomas Cromwell in the prime years of his life, ascending from a blacksmiths son to confidant and legal advisor to King Henry VIII. At its most complex it is about ambition and desire and what is done to achieve ones goals. Wow! These historical figures actually possess a sense of humor, they have strengths and foibles and they feel completely human. I can imagine Mantel's files are bursting with descriptive information concerning Anne and Mary Boleyn, Thomas More, Cardinal Wolsey and Princess/Lady Mary to name a few. Mantel's ability to write believable dialog between these high profile people is phenomenal. Wow! Hall is a literary masterpiece which draws the reader into a time lost to ruble and ruins yet in Mantel's words everything is alive once again. Each time the novel is opened it seems as if these men and women jump out from the pages as if to gasp a breath of 21st century air. For this reason I recommend reading Wolf Hall at long intervals as to sustain the spell that enfolds you. Wow! Wolf Hall offers the reader much information but it is not written as if a textbook but an entertaining jaunt through Tudor England. Wow! It had me crying out "more, more, more". No, not Sir Thomas More but more Mantel.


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