Winner of the Man Booker Prize
Winner of the Man Booker Prize
Shortlisted for the the Orange Prize
Shortlisted for the Costa Novel Award
`Dizzyingly, dazzlingly good' Daily Mail
‘Our most brilliant English writer’ Guardian
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.
‘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
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Hilary Mantel shot to the top of everyone's reading list in 2009 with her vivid re-imagining of Thomas Cromwell, chief minister to Henry VIII. A masterpiece of historical fiction, Wolf Hall went on to win the prestigious Man Booker Prize and has also inspired an addictive TV miniseries. Mantel’s beautiful and surprisingly modern prose brings Tudor England to life with gorgeous period detail and palpable suspense. The talented author creates a real sense of urgency by narrating the story through Cromwell's eyes, offering flashbacks to his painful past.
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.
Might be very cleverly written, but not very readable.
I absolutely loved this book. One of the very best things I've read in years, I found it entirely engaging and absorbing. The writing sparkles with striking imagery and phrases, and after A Man For All Seasons it's fascinating to see things from Cromwell's perspective. And Bring Up The Bodies is even better! If you love a great story by a writer at the height of her powers I would recommend this unreservedly.