- Format: Kindle Edition
- File Size: 1957 KB
- Print Length: 559 pages
- Publisher: Fourth Estate (30 April 2009)
- Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers (AU)
- Language: English
- ASIN: B002RI9ZZ4
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Customer Reviews: 4,236 customer ratings
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #591 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Wolf Hall: The Man Booker Prize Winner and Magnificent Best Selling Work of Historical Fiction (The Wolf Hall Trilogy, Book 1) Kindle Edition
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|Length: 559 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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The Man Booker Prize Winner and Magnificent Best Selling Work of Historical Fiction
‘So original and disconcerting that it will surely come to be seen as a paradigm-shifter’ Sunday Telegraph
‘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
‘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, author of Somewhere Towards the End
‘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
‘A fascinating read, so good I rationed myself. It is remarkable and very learned; the texture is marvellously rich, the feel of Tudor London and the growing household of a man on the rise marvellously authentic. Characters real and imagined spring to life, from the childish and petulant King to Thomas Wolsey's jester, and it captures the extrovert, confident, violent mood of the age wonderfully’ C.J. Sansom, author of The Shardlake Series
‘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, author of The Birth of Venus
‘A superb novel, beautifully constructed, and an absolutely compelling read. A novel of Tudor times which persuades us that we are there, at that moment, hungry to know what happens next. It is the making of our English world, and who can fail to be stirred by it?’ Helen Dunmore, author of Birdcage Walk
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About 40% of the work can be skipped over due to a mountain of recurring confused prose that doesn't make sense, does not mean anything, nor advance the story and characters. In fact you should skip over the 1000s of meaningless passages, and pointless diversions, and advance to the actual story. It will save you hours of time.
Students of history will note the many deviations from actual history in Wolf Hall.
In attempting to make a better story Mantel decides to take us places, and give many explanations, for which there is no actual evidence for in history. In doing so Mantel makes the same fatal error of so many others (Hollywood script writers mostly). Actual history cannot be improved on and every time writers divert from it they stuff up.
Don't know how this won any prizes but it's saved by the fact that the basic story of Cromwell's era is a compelling one that is hard to stuff up......... even with poor writing skills.
Top international reviews
It's nearly impossible to figure out what is happening or who is speaking. The prose is written in the present tense, which I find incredibly irritating for some reason and makes the book sound like a Peppa Pig or Charlie and Lola book. The most infuriating thing though is Mantel's habit of writing "he says" during a conversation between three, or possibly four, men meaning that you have no idea who is speaking. She also quite often uses speech without quote marks, e.g. "He says, don't be childish. George says, she is so a witch: the Duke of Norfolk says she is, and he's her uncle, he should know." I'm at a loss who the first "he" refers to. I thought it was Cavendish because that's the only name mentioned in the two pages before but then the following page tells us that "he would rather be drinking with Cavendish". The book is a complete mess and how this won the Man Booker Prize is a mystery to me, but it doesn't make me want to read any other winners.
Interestingly, I tweeted that I was reading a prize winning book that was impossible to follow but did not name the author. It took less than 2 minutes for 10 people to all correctly guess the author and book I was talking about so clearly I'm not the only person who feels this way.
The tempo is SO slow and the dialogue is lacking any real character, and so I gave up on it without even reaching 100 pages. Maybe it would have got better had I persevered with it, but I had lost my enthusiasm for it at that point. A real shame as it’s set in such an incredible point in British history.
The problem though is that it is incredibly poorly written. All the characters are lifeless, hard to tell apart from each other, the story is... uneventful at best. You hardly even know who the author is talking about, you always find the awful structure: "He, Cromwell, thought.." So clearly, the author is as confused as you are (and if it's voluntary for purpose of style, it's even worse). I hardly ever give up on a book after reading half of it. But I realised that when you put the book down to browse on your phone, you just have to face the fact. To me this book is a missed opportunity.
Wolf Hall is a book about Thomas Cromwell. It is told from his point of view, but not in the first person. This creates a narrative in which we see the world through Thomas’ eyes, be where he is, know something of what he knows, but we can also pull back and see him, asking questions of himself as he sorts out the lives of others. Thomas in this version is a ‘fixer’, the supreme pragmatist who does what has to be done to whoever needs sorting out. His memory is a blessing in this work, but a curse as he copes with the loss of his wife and daughters. The loss of his family haunts this book, as does his awareness of ghosts of the past, those who lived in a house before him, and Cardinal Wolsey’s enormous personality. He copes with the women of the court, Anne, Katherine, Mary and the others that serve them with caution and sometimes confusion, seeing them as another problem to solve as well as possible actors in his scenarios. King Henry is sometimes a child to be placated, an impossible, querulous dictator. Cromwell has his measure in this book, but remains under no illusions that he must proceed with caution to avoid potentially fatal confrontations.
This is not a perfect book. It takes its time to get anywhere, and sometimes gets bogged down under the weight of its constant thinking, reaction and action, plotting and planning. Yet it is a human book in its diverse progress, the tangents and confusions that we can understand. Life in this period could be and often was short and brutal, and this book shows us how and why. Mantel has said that she was keen to look at the events of Henry’s reign through other eyes than the wives, the King himself, the minor functionaries of court. Thomas Cromwell was the supreme fixer of problems and situations. This book shows you how and why, as well as the human thought processes behind his survival and success in a dangerous time.
A lot of other reviewers have complained the about the writing style, but I urge new readers considering picking this up not to let those complaints put you off. Mantell writes in present tense, using the the term "he" a lot. It takes a chapter or so to get used to this and learn a sense of who is actually speaking. But you soon learn; when Mantell refers to 'he', she is almost always referring to Cromwell. If you assume 'he' is Cromwell you'll get it right 98% of the time.
The story follows Cromwell episodically. Roughly, it covers the period from the fall of Wolsey in 1529 to 1535. Early chapters (episodes) jump backwards in time- Cromwell running away from home at fifteen in 1500, working with Wolsey in 1521, 1527 etc. The middle and later chapters remain episodic but do become more chronological.
You will fall in love with Cromwell a bit. He is an appealing character, intelligent and measured. Mantell shows us how he can be intimidating and dangerous to others, but we the reader are always on the inside, with Cromwell- we see his threat from his point of view.
There are no two dimensional characters. Henry is understandable and you develop empathy for him, rather than being the flat psychopath of other writers. Anne Boleyn is built up as a vile nutcase when spoken of by other characters, but in person with Cromwell is a more rounded character.
I cannot recommend this highly enough. If you want a taste of the Tudors this is magnificent. I would argue that it isn't a cheap and easy beach read, so don't pick it up for that. But neither is it War and Peace - it is not the challenging read it it built up to be
Twenty-two years later, Pope John Paul II proclaimed Thomas More the patron saint of politicians and people in public life, on the basis of his 'constant fidelity to legitimate authority and . . . his intention to serve not power but the supreme ideal of justice'.
And yet in this book Saint Thomas Moore is slandered.
I will enjoy seeing Mantel in the fires of hell for eternity.
From humble beginnings then we see the rise of Thomas Cromwell, to a trusted aide and righthand man to Cardinal Wolsey and beyond. Why this works is because a character is built up that is believable, and we can also relate to. At a time when apart from the living conditions of many and poor health so we arrive at the top, where things can be more comfortable, but with any mistake or causing displeasure for the king can bring upon you turmoil and even death, so one has to tread carefully. Cromwell in real life has a rather sketchy history growing up, with contradictions and some mystery, but as far as can be discerned he served as a mercenary, did learn languages and helped to accommodate trade deals. All of this was of course to serve him well, making money for himself and his family, but his relationship with Wolsey was to prove a high point as such, because this brought him into a more prominent position, increasing his ability to network and move in the higher echelons of society.
Assisting Wolsey here we see the problems that arise with Henry wanting to divorce his first wife for Anne Boleyn, and the part that Luther and his protestant beliefs were to assist in this matter. Although Wolsey falls from grace, so Cromwell manages to still keep in among the court, and as a protestant himself so we see how he deals with others, and how he deals with the Church.
This is very much a tale of the rise of Cromwell to prominence at court and how the king befriends him and requires his assistance. Another thing that helps this book is although for instance we see Henry and Anne, along with others, so this does not overshadow the tale of Cromwell, bringing to life this man as never before. We will never really know what he was like, but Mantel does give him a believable presence that we can sympathise with, as he places himself in a position where he has to deal with the politics of the time, and become a statesman. Well written this also reminds us that in many ways this was when England started to take a more prominent place on the European, and thus the world stage. Within this story we see the rumours and grudges that arise between different characters, and also for Henry it may not just have been that his first wife, Catherine of Aragon could not give him a healthy son, but also that she proved to be a better tactician than him, after all while he does poorly in France, she prevents the Scots from invading northern lands. With treachery and a lot of machination so we are taken on a trip back through time to what was a dangerous period.
Admittedly I do enjoy pretty much anything Tudorbethan - it's my favourite musical period, the architecture's great and the whole Thomas Cromwell / Henry VIII / Church of England story is deeply fascinating. I had already read all of C. J. Sansom's Shardlake series set in the same time and place (for example, Lamentation) and had loved those - and I had quite enjoyed the TV adaptation despite a few moans, though that wasn't as well endowed with humour as the book's marvellous dialogue. But Mantel won me over after a few pages. It is a remarkable book that deserves all the accolades it has, both in terms of the handling of story and bringing the period alive.
I'm no historian, so I don't know how accurate it is - but I get the impression it's not bad in this regard. I read somewhere that Mantel did away with the saintly image of Thomas More, though I think, to be fair, Josephine Tey had already done that to the limit in her fascinating if sometimes rather dull The Daughter of Time. More to the point, though, Wolf Hall is a wonderful novel.
I do have one issue I need to briefly moan about, which is perhaps the only way in which the author seems to have consciously attempted to be literary in her approach. She insists on referring to Cromwell as 'he', even when convention has it that 'he' should refer to the male person most recently mentioned. A classic example was 'Norfolk will preside. He will tell him how it will be.' That first he is not Norfolk, but Cromwell. I lost count of the number of times I had to go back and re-read a paragraph to work out who 'he' was.