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.
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.
I've never read historical fiction, yet Mantel's Wolf Hall had me from the start. Great writing! Dialogue on almost every page, characters that come alive and about whom we care. Thoroughly entertaining, humor, revulsion, pathos, sex, murder, torture, religion...the grimy, glory world of medieval England revealed at its best. Read it.
Richly told, beautifully envisioned, with a wholly different image of Cromwell than we are used to hearing. Thoroughly enjoyable. Ended with an opening for a sequel, can hardly wait.
Of connecting the small and the grand. The best in it's genre. So many stunning passages for a story we thought we knew. I miss Mr. Crumuel.