Monday, June 25, 2012

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

Ebook 2352KB
Genre  Historical Fiction
Publisher  Fourth Estate 2009
Source Amazon Kindle
First Sentence 'So now get up.' Felled, dazed, silent, he has fallen; knocked full length on the cobbles of the yard.
Review Quote   ‘Mantel’s ability to pick out vivid scenes from sources and give them life within her fiction is quite exceptional…Vividly alive.’ London Review of Books 
Winner of the 2009 Man Booker Prize For Fiction

My Opinion  I enjoyed this popular period of history seen from a different viewpoint.

I have only just discovered that Wolf Hall is the first part of a trilogy, but then once again I am late getting to read a novel, that really deserved my attention before now. It really is a case of so many books and so little time, I just have too many interests to keep on top of all the reading I would love to do. Anyway I finally got round to reading Wolf Hall on the recommendation of my daughter and the exciting fact that the publishers have sent me a copy of the second part Bring Up the Bodies. Keen to read it soon I obviously needed to get to read Wolf Hall first.

Historical novels are a genre I have always enjoyed but a few years ago I seemed to go off them and tended to steer myself away from the genre. Then thanks to this blog I found myself receiving invitations to review historical novels and reluctantly at first I decided to give the genre a chance again, because I pride myself in having eclectic tastes! It was the right decision as now I am enjoying a whole new generation of great historical novel writers, as you will have noticed if you are a regular reader of my reviews.

A period in history that has been written about many times before by the popular historical fiction novelists, but to my knowledge not from the viewpoint of Thomas Cromwell before now. Somehow Hilary Mantel turns a character I had always seen as a villian into a protagonist of this epic novel that I actually cared about, certainly as a family man! His household is seen as a happy place in complete contrast to the court of Henry Tudor. I did find the story confusing at first as it took me awhile to get the other characters with the name Thomas and the constant reference to he straight in my mind. Once I got into the rhythm of Hilary Mantels brilliantly told tale I found it engrossing. Her richly descriptive style brings every aspect of the period to life with intrigue and wit. 

Set in the reign of Henry VIII England is on the brink of disaster, as if Henry dies without a male heir civil war is likely to break out. Henry wants to escape his twenty year marriage to Katherine of Aragon and replace her with Anne Boleyn. It is during this period that the court sees the rise of Thomas Cromwell from his lowly birth to become the right hand man to the King in replacement  of Cardinal Wolsey as he and Thomas More are both doomed. As surely as their mistakes lead to their death, Cromwell finds that success brings him seemingly unlimited power. As the protagonist of this novel, Thomas Cromwell, the blacksmiths son that grew up to become powerful at court, a cruel and ruthless man according to history, is seen in a different light. Maybe he did have a more likeable side as when he was with family and friends he comes across as a kind man.  Henry VIII needs a male heir and it becomes Cromwell's job to clear the path of all obstacles, of which there are many, that are preventing him from doing so. If you learnt the rhyme (divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived ),about Henry's wives as I did at school you will know the eventual outcome; as the novel ends there are already signs that the King is tiring of Anne Boleyn.

Although this is an historical novel the story revolves around human nature so readers that may normally prefer modern day fiction, will find plenty to relate to, just with characters you first heard of  in history lessons at school. Personally I am really looking forward to reading the sequel now.

Author Profile

Hilary Mantel was born in Glossop, Derbyshire, England on 6 July 1952. She studied Law at the London School of Economics and Sheffield University. She was employed as a social worker, and lived in Botswana for five years, followed by four years in Saudi Arabia, before returning to Britain in the mid-1980s, where she still lives. In 1987 she was awarded the Shiva Naipaul Memorial Prize for an article about Jeddah, and she was film critic for The Spectator from 1987 to 1991.  She is the author of nine previous novels, including A Change of Climate, A Place of Greater Safety, and Eight Months on Ghazzah Street. She has also written a memoir, Giving Up the Ghost. Winner of the Hawthornden Prize, she reviews for The New York Times, The New York Review of Books, and the London Review of Books.  Wolf Hall (2009) won the 2009 Man Booker Prize for Fiction, the sequel to which Bring Up The Bodies was published in May 2012.

Photo and Biographical Information is with thanks to the following sites. 

If you would like to know more about the woman behind the writing, I recommend you check out this interesting interview published in her local paper earlier this year, The Globe and Mail


  1. I have heard much praise for both of these novels (here on my side of the pond!) The sheer size of the books has me setting them on a "to-be-read" stack. Your review encourages me to find the time, soon.

  2. I would love this one because I love historical novels and the Tudors! :D I think it would be fun to read a novel where Cromwell is the protagonist. Thanks so much for this review!

    Oh, and have you noticed that lately trilogies are becoming more and more common in publishing?


  3. I would be interested in reading both books due to the level of publicity Wolf Hall received. Thanks for writing such an informative review.

  4. Rochelle Hollander SchwabJune 26, 2012 at 11:22 AM

    Had a terrible time with the software trying to comment on your blog page. What I was trying to post was:

    I'm also reading Wolf Hall after seeing such great reviews for Bring Up the Bodies. I love it, and enjoyed reading your review. I agree that at the beginning of the book sorting out who she was referring to by the pronoun he was confusing, but am now into the flow of it. And I already have bought Bring Up the Bodies on my Kindle. (I find reading goes much faster on the Kindle.)

    Incidentally, as an American somehow I had never even heard of Thomas Cromwell and his part in aiding Henry VIII to take new wives. Not knowing that he is supposed to be a villain, I like him very much,

  5. Patricia@ I am delighted my review has encouraged you, hope you enjoy them.
    Ricki Jill@ As you are already a fan of this era, I think you would enjoy the different approach in Wolf Hall. Yes there does seem to be a a few more trilogies appearing recently.
    Mirella@ I am pleased you found the review informative and are thinking of reading them.
    Rochelle@ I have noticed myself it has been erratic to say the least about letting one comment and I did report it! I have had to change the method of commenting but I do prefer embedded! I am glad you enjoyed my review.

  6. It's funny but this is one of the very few books I have started but not finished. Maybe I'll have to try again some time.l

    Hope you are having a good week.

  7. Carol@ I was surprised to read this, maybe you noticed that quite a few people mention that it takes awhile to work out what is happening and who all the Thomas's are. I hope you do try again.

  8. I felt there was something missing in the review.
    It wasn't complete or something.

    I liked the font you've used in the beginning of the review.

    Very comfortable to read.
    Keep reading.

    A quick suggestion, if i can would be to read books of themes you love. Would make a world of a difference.

  9. Divenita@ This comment is not in your usual style at all and I am wondering if it is really you? When I click to visit you it says your profile is no longer publicly available, very odd. I would love to know more and discuss your comments if it is really you?

  10. yes, it is me. :)
    I changed my blog name.

    I meant not in the content. I may be wrong but i felt somehow you did not write it wholeheartedly.

    Please correct me if i am wrong

  11. Oh ok it did not sound like you! I am sorry you feel the review is missing something, although I do not really understand what it is? I have to be careful what I say as I hate spoilers in reviews, do you think this is the problem? I would like to know as I am now reading the sequel and wish to do it justice when I come to write the review!
    Themes I love, I thought I did read ones I usually enjoy?
    Thanks for your interest as always.

  12. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


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