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Wolf Hall

byHilary Mantel

Paperback | December 13, 2011

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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 oppose him. The quest for the king’s freedom destroys his adviser, the brilliant Cardinal Wolsey, and leaves a power vacuum and a deadlock.

Into this impasse steps Thomas Cromwell. The son of a brutal blacksmith, a political genius, a briber, a bully and a charmer, Cromwell has broken all the rules of a rigid society in his rise to power, and is preparing to break some more. Rising from personal disaster – the loss of his young family and of Wolsey, his beloved patron – he picks his way deftly through a court where -man is wolf to man.’ Pitting himself against parliament, the political establishment and the papacy, he is prepared to reshape England to his own and Henry’s desires.

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, Wolf Hall 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.

Heather's Review

I was a few pages into Wolf Hall and knew immediately I was reading something very special – the perfect Heather’s Pick. When the novel was nominated for the coveted Booker Prize, I kept my fingers crossed that it would get the nod. In fact, a few weeks ago, Wolf Hall emerged the 2009 Booker winner. And winner it is. Wolf Hall is ric...

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Hilary Mantel was born in Derbyshire. She was educated at a convent and later studied law. After ten years abroad in Africa and the Middle East, she returned to Britain in 1985 to make a career as a writer. She is working on her ninth novel.
Title:Wolf HallFormat:PaperbackDimensions:672 pages, 8 × 5.31 × 1.51 inPublished:December 13, 2011Publisher:HarperCollinsLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1554687780

ISBN - 13:9781554687787

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Rated 2 out of 5 by from Difficult I had to read this for a social studies assignment. It started off interesting but around halfway, it got a bit confusing. Multiple characters shared the same names (I think there were three Thomas', two Elizabeths, four Henry's, two Anne's, etc) and the political details threw me off. If I was not biased about political books, Wolfhall would definitely be far better than I enjoyed.
Date published: 2018-03-16
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Not what I was expecting The story is told in a series of "episodes" - each chapter is narrated in the moment, but they hope around through time and are somewhat disconnected from each other. The result is a broad picture of Cromwell's life, but I didn't find it very narratively satisfying. Each one of these episodes could have been a whole book on its own, covering more of the lead-up, as well as the ramifications. Overall, though, this is a good book. It's long - very long - but should be appealing to fans of historical fiction.
Date published: 2018-01-20
Rated 2 out of 5 by from difficult read I read 200 pages and never finished. Dont understand how it won the Booker prize.
Date published: 2017-07-12
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Took me a while to get into.. Great book once I got into it, but it took a while
Date published: 2016-12-12
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Fascinating account of Henry VIII's reign. It took me longer to read this book than usual. It is not a book you can skim through. The characters are difficult to keep track of and sometimes it difficult to know who the author is referring to. But, it is a wonderful historical account of Tudor England. If you are used to reading the lighter historical novels of Phillipa Gregory, this may not be the book for you. But if you are hooked on historical novels and eager to read another point of view, this book is fascinating. I have also purchased "Bringing Up the Bodies." and will be starting it soon.
Date published: 2014-02-10
Rated 2 out of 5 by from BORING! This novel is from the point of view of Thomas Cromwell, a lawyer during the time of Henry VIII. Cromwell was around while Henry was divorcing his first wife, Katherine of Aragon, in order to marry Anne Boleyn. I was bored out of my mind! And I like historical fiction and I like reading about the Tudors. I do tend to prefer reading a woman's point of view, though. I did know about the pronoun “issue” with this book, so I knew what to expect there (and who “he” was generally referring to), so that wasn't the problem. It was just incredibly boring for me. My mind wandered the entire way through the book. I just don't understand how the Tudors can possibly be boring, but in this case... It's extreme to say I “hated” a book; I will simply say I was bored and so, I didn't like it. 2 stars.
Date published: 2013-03-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from More than excellent Yes it is a bit dificult to follow at first, But reader: «fear not» (as I did at first after reading some of the comments ) .This is not above the intellect of the average discriminate book lover. The writing is georgeous,the characters so well defined and interesting and the historical plot captivating.Above all the ambiance of the times and the places,the mores and thinking of the peoples is so well rendered that every time I was going back to the book it felt intensely like time traveling.A genuine immersion in the 16th century. By the way after finishing it I devoured« Bring up the bodies»with perhaps still more pleasure.
Date published: 2013-02-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Great British Novel Reborn Wolf Hall is a big, fat, juicy, marrow-filled, beef bone of a book. It’s the kind of book you want to gnaw on all winter curled up under a blanket with a cup of mulled wine in hand. Should you not have any interest in history or any familiarity with the English Reformation, don’t bother reading this book. You will be bored to tears and pulling out your hair trying to figure out who is who and who did what. But should Tudor History and the court of Henry the VIII be more than a passing fancy then you are in for a rapturous, all consuming, feast. Hilary Mantel rescues Thomas Cromwell from the caricature of conniving Ogre, and reveals the complexities, both personal and political, that must have been the reality of someone of his position. She perches a camera on his (Cromwell’s) shoulder and gives us a view of this fascinating world through his eyes. Every so often the camera pulls a way so that we get a glimpse of the man himself. Those of us mourning the death of The Great British Novel can smile again.
Date published: 2013-01-29
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Horribly Disappointing I had looked so forward to reading this book and then was horribly disappointed. The story line was so promising but the writing so poor that I could not keep up with which character was speaking at any given time. As well, the timelines jumped around without explanation. I rarely do not finish a book but out of frustration, I abandoned this one. So sad.
Date published: 2012-10-08
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Complicated and dense but rewarding One really has to know their Tudor history and all the supporting players surrounding the divorce between Catherine of Aragon and Henry VIII so that he could marry Ann Boleyn; the separation of the Church of England from the Roman Catholic Church and the the rise and fall of Sir Thomas More in order to appreciate the details of this clever novel. Fortunately, Thomas Cromwell played a key role in each of these important events in British history and it is through his eyes, (and sometimes from the perspective of those who surround him), the Mantel tells her story. At times very witty and fast moving and at other times totally confusing and weighty, Mantel does a commendable job of retelling history in a modern voice. Lots of palace intrigue that never becomes stodgy. A re-watching of A Man for All Seasons helps to jar the memory of the Thomas More story, (although the characters of More and Cromwell are much different in Mantel's version and far more compelling).
Date published: 2012-09-18
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Eight Bookcases Check out my review of Mantel's work on my blog: http://8bookcases.blogspot.ca/2012/05/wolf-hall-by-hilary-mantel.html
Date published: 2012-05-26
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Strongly disliked this book This book has a very different style that most people in North America will not have seen before. It is very difficult to get into, and try as I might, I could not finish this book, which is extremely rare. I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone.
Date published: 2010-11-15
Rated 2 out of 5 by from difficult to read style the story is told with detail at a level that is difficult to follow if you haven't already read about the era - and the writing style is somewhat forced and ackward - but, I finished it, so it must have had something going for it
Date published: 2010-10-17
Rated 3 out of 5 by from A tough go at first, but ultimately worth it I FINALLY finished reading Wolf Hall! I think it's the longest I have ever taken to read a book. As far as literature goes, it's a little bit disappointing. There's really not much more than meets the eye here, however detailed it may be. I would say it's far more historical than it is literary. However, it is clearly very well researched and painstakingly put together. An interesting and I'd say fairly accurate look at Thomas Cromwell's rise to power in Tudor England. If you hang in there, it starts to get more engaging as you learn the characters. It also helps if you have at least a little background in Tudor history.
Date published: 2010-07-07
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Not So Good It is very rare that I don't just finish a book but this one I had to put down. I know the story but I found I could not follow who was speaking to who and just thought there is so much else out there that I could be reading. So over 100 pages in and I gave up. Disappointed as Heather's pick is usually good.
Date published: 2010-06-29
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Mildly disappointing During the reign of King Henry VIII, there was one very influential figure that played a prominent role in the crowning of Queen Anne Boleyn: Thomas Cromwell. Wolf Hall focuses on Cromwell's background and his time at court during the height of the Boleyn rule. There's a large cast of characters to explain how Cromwell went from being the son of an abusive blacksmith, to a soldier for the French, to a money trader, to an adviser of Cardinal Wolsley, to finally one of the most powerful men in England. It's hard to tell how much of this novel is from actual accounts and how much is made up, but Mantel does a good job of portraying Cromwell as a brilliant, yet emotionally distant man. Cromwell obviously cares strongly for his family but he finds a way to detach himself from work. You can't help but think that if Cromwell lived in current times he would be one of the guys that gets away with the downfall of a major company like Enron or AIG because of his mischievous ways. Due to the fact that there are so many characters in this novel, if you have a background in the area (my background was only watching The Tudors and having read another book or two in the same time) you'll find things much easier to remember. Even with some knowledge of the characters, I still found it hard to determine who was speaking to who and what subject they were talking about. For this reason, it took quite a while for me to get into the book. The book goes up to Thomas More's trial for refusing to take an oath of Boleyn's heirs and that Katherine was no longer Queen. I would have liked it to go up to Cromwell's downfall, and think it could have if it hadn't dwelled on less important points. When I picked this book up I was really looking forward to it but overall found it mildly disappointing.
Date published: 2010-06-26
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Difficult to read I agree with some of the other comments that this book was difficult to read, there were times when I had no idea who was talking - I eventually gave up after just a few chapters. Sorry!
Date published: 2010-06-23
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A new look at Thomas Cromwell Set in the early 16th century, Hilary Mantel, through the eyes of Thomas Cromwell, tells the story of Henry VIII's quest to dissolve his marriage to Katherine of Aragon in order to marry Anne Boleyn. Right from the very first pages where we meet a young Thomas, who is in the process of having the beating of his life at the hands and feet of his father, I was pulled right into the story. To me it seemed that the words on the page flowed together in such a way that I had no choice but to follow them. As the pages fled by I found myself immersed in a world that existed almost 500 years ago. I was surprised. When I first picked up the book I had braced myself for something I thought would be dry and maybe even tedious. I quickly found that I was wrong. My previous exposure to King Henry VIII was a high school study of A Man for All Seasons: A Play in Two Acts by Robert Bolt. The play was written from the perspective of Thomas More, a man who died for his convictions rather than agree to uphold the King's annulment from Katherine. I was attending a Catholic school at that time and surrounded by nuns, so of course I learned that Thomas More was correct and that we should pray from him and his decision. I also learned that Thomas Cromwell was a bad man and that his beliefs were corrupt. His protrayal in this book was nothing of the sort. He appeared to me a man who had no choice but to make a life for himself and for those who had become dependent on him. A roll he filled extremely well. I hated to put the book down and I had to, I couldn't wait to get back to it. This is the first book I have read of the six books shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction. While I think that it was wonderfully written, I don't know that it will have a wide enough appeal to be selected as the overall winner.
Date published: 2010-05-16
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Not Good Told from the perspective of Thomas Cromwell, here is another telling of the circumstances surrounding the court of King Henry the VIII. The story tells of Cromwell’s meager upbringing as the son of a Blacksmith and his rise to prominence in King Henry’s court. Mantel tries to capture, yet again, the political and religious aspects of the time period in which King Henry the VIII reigned, his journey to dissolve his marriage to Katherine of Aragon and his subsequent quest to marry Anne Boleyn and produce a male heir. I don’t like Hilary Mantel’s writing style and I found it really hard to understand, along with her use of the pronouns “he” or “she” when there is more than one female or male character in the scene. I found the language to be a bit too colourful for me as the narrative often goes off in many different directions instead of staying on the center of the plot. One of the only reasons I was able to follow and know what was going on was because of the fact that I am familiar with the characters and the circumstances of the time due to watching the TV show The Tudors. I guess from all of the positive reviews I had see for this book I was expecting something else but there was nothing new to keep me interested in this novel. Story * Characters * Readability * Overall Rating *
Date published: 2010-03-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Book but Not for Everyone Definitely deserving of the Man Booker it won in 2009, Wolf Hall introduces us to a different side of your favourite Tudor era characters - from Wolsley to the Boleyns to Moore - told through the experiences of Thomas Cromwell. Mantel takes a whole new perspective on Cromwell and presents an intriguing, intelligent, and loving man who works his way up from the streets to the courts. That being said, this is not a light read (not a "Other Boleyn Girl" type book) and therefore not for everyone. The writing style is a bit different but give it a chance. I found it a bit confusing about who was saying what at first but once you get used to it, the words really flow. As far as the style goes, I think the biggest problem lies in the use of the word "he" - sometimes you're just not sure which "he" is being referred to. Wolf Hall is rich with accurate historical fact and left me wanting more Cromwell. Luckily the author is coming out with the sequel, The Mirror and the Light, which will finished Cromwell's story.
Date published: 2010-03-11
Rated 2 out of 5 by from just couldn't get into this book.... I usually love all ManBooker Prize winners, I love stories in this time period and was soo excited when I picked it up. I can say, there were times when I was really into it, but at the end of the book I was so disappointed. In fact the other day, I looked at it on my shelf, and honestly couldn't even remember if I'd actually finished it...very disappointing.
Date published: 2010-02-26
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Wolf Hall This was a very slow moving book. Sometimes difficult to know who they were talking about. Maybe Cromwell, More, Henry V111 and Anne Boleyn were really that boring. Who knows. If the reader is looking for a historical fiction-try Edward Rutherfurd's New York.
Date published: 2010-02-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Decide for Yourself I was very surprised by the reviews for Wolf Hall. I entirely appreciate and respect the opinions voiced but they are very and overwhelmingly different than my impression of this book. They are opposite to my experience to the point where I question how much stock I should give a review when making my own book choices. It was given to me as a gift by a friend who adored it. Her only other remarks were it was beautifully written. I also found it so. This book provides a great timeline to Cromwell's life particularily his rise and fall at the court of Henry VIII. I found the spare writing style helped avoid an over abundance of embellishment to history and for me this book was nearly perfect.
Date published: 2010-01-19
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Dreadful! A Man Booker prize winner; Heather's pick; a novel set in a historical period that I am particularly interested in - so what went wrong? It took me more than a month to trudge through this book. Was it just me? Judging by the comments by other readers, apparently not. How did this ever get published?
Date published: 2010-01-16
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Writing style spoiled the book I. Could not; get past; the annoying; writing style. Where; was, the editor. And what. Were they; thinking. (I hope you get my point here)
Date published: 2010-01-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from "Entirely Beloved Cromwell" indeed! This is a fabulous book and I recommend it to anybody. Even the cover and pages of this book are approachable. You will fall into Tudor England through its pages so long as you give it a chance. Yes it is long but it is well worth the effort and I myself even delayed finishing Wolf Hall just to spend more time with the characters. I've heard people complain of Mantel including too many characters but for me they all came to life fully. The author was able to offer us a well rounded perspective of England and the world view of the time period. I am a history buff and this is truly one of the best historical novels I have ever read. It is a must read!
Date published: 2010-01-05
Rated 2 out of 5 by from difficult read I was looking forward to reading this book after Heather's review but it has become a struggle. I am almost finished and have finally caught on to the style and it is getting more enjoyable but I'm looking forward to it ending so I can get on with another book that I hope will never end! The book was very good at putting me to sleep at times only to have dreams about that period. This book takes a lot of concentration but for lovers of historical history they will probably enjoy it. I was glad I didn't pay full price for it and will donate it to the library. If I had got it from there I probably would have exceeded my renewals, it has taken me that long to finish!
Date published: 2009-12-30
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Hard To Get Into To enjoy this novel it may be preferable in my view to have a good knowledge of the 16th century Europe and be a literary aficionado. The story attempts to capture the political and social turmoil during the period of Henry V111, when his desire to divorce challenged the church's power. The story is told from the perspective of Thomas Cromwell. The novel is large (650 pages) and is densely populated with characters, requiring a list in order to keep track of them. It is one of those novels hard to get into. I found reading it was an arduous task, Ms Mantel's style of writing is lofty and subtle, the presentation quite confusing and extremely hard to follow without a good foundation of this historical period. I would agree with those saying the story weaves like a drunken sailor (my apologies to sailors). I suspect the author has made a straight forward story way too complicated to be credible and interesting to the average individual. I have rarely put a book aside before the ending, it was definitely not meant for me and I am happy I borrowed it from my local library.
Date published: 2009-12-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Curse of Cromwell Let me write a review of Heather's Pick . When I read the Chapters/Indigo ad on page F-11 (Saturday's Globe & Mail) I assumed that ' Oliver Cromwell' was a typo.Needless to say,there is a big diff.between Thomas Cromwell-1485-1540 & Oliver C.1599-1658. I suggest that Heather offer an apology to Hilary Mantel.
Date published: 2009-10-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Perfect Curl Up and Read Fall Book I was a few pages into Wolf Hall and knew immediately I was reading something very special – the perfect Heather’s Pick. When the novel was nominated for the coveted Booker Prize, I kept my fingers crossed that it would get the nod. In fact, a few weeks ago, Wolf Hall emerged the 2009 Booker winner. And winner it is. Wolf Hall is rich, historical fiction with a totally new perspective on the intrigue-filled court of Henry the VIII. All the usual suspects are present: Henry’s first wife Katherine of Aragon; his second wife Anne Boleyn and her sister Mary; Thomas Wolsey, the Archbishop of York; William Warham, the aging Archbishop of Canterbury; the Seymour family; the Pope and many others. But the real protagonist in this deftly woven story is Thomas Cromwell – political genius, briber, bully and full-on charmer. It is through Cromwell’s intelligent and piercing eyes that we become voyeurs at the famous Tudor Court. The events and circumstances surrounding Cromwell’s rise to power are breathtaking. Rising from personal disaster – the loss of his young family, and of Wolsey, his beloved patron – he picks his way deftly through a court where “man is wolf to man”. Pitting himself against parliament, the political establishment, and the papacy, he is prepared to reshape England to his own and Henry’s desires. This is a time when the crown jewels went to those who could get and keep power, but, as Anne Boleyn discovered, a fall from grace meant nothing short of the gallows. P.S. For the first few pages, you may find it hard to keep track of all the characters – worry not, there is a “cheat sheet” of characters tucked into the book.
Date published: 2009-10-22