Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

89%

24 Critic Reviews

So convincing is she with "Wolf Hall" that it is easy to feel that we are seeing the real Cromwell before us, transforming himself from the battered child of an abusive London blacksmith...into a cosmopolitan, accomplished Renaissance man.
-WSJ online

Synopsis

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.

 

About Hilary Mantel

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Hilary Mantel's novels "offer lessons in life's contrariness, in the tensions between free will, unfortunate accident, and involuntary behavior" (Los Angeles Times Book Review). She is the author of eight novels and winner of the prestigious Hawthornden Prize for Literature.
 
Published October 13, 2009 by Henry Holt and Co.. 604 pages
Genres: History, Literature & Fiction, Religion & Spirituality, Parenting & Relationships. Fiction
Bestseller Status:
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Peak Rank on Jun 03 2012
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Critic reviews for Wolf Hall
All: 24 | Positive: 23 | Negative: 1

NY Times

Excellent
Reviewed by Janet Maslin on Oct 04 2009

In “Wolf Hall,” Hilary Mantel’s arch, elegant, richly detailed biographical novel centered on Cromwell, she has used Holbein’s delivery of the portrait as the basis for a dagger-sharp moment of truth.

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Guardian

Excellent
Reviewed by Christopher Tayler on May 02 2009

Lyrically yet cleanly and tightly written, solidly imagined yet filled with spooky resonances, and very funny at times, it's not like much else in contemporary British fiction.

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Guardian

Excellent
Reviewed by Olivia Laing on Apr 26 2009

This is a beautiful and profoundly humane book, a dark mirror held up to our own world.

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Blog Critics

Excellent
Reviewed by Elizabeth Periale on Jan 22 2011

...Man Booker Prize winning Wolf Hall is a wonderful book, a great read.

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WSJ online

Excellent
Reviewed by Martin Rubin on Oct 10 2009

So convincing is she with "Wolf Hall" that it is easy to feel that we are seeing the real Cromwell before us, transforming himself from the battered child of an abusive London blacksmith...into a cosmopolitan, accomplished Renaissance man.

Read Full Review of Wolf Hall | See more reviews from WSJ online

Dear Author

Good
Reviewed by Jennie on Apr 10 2015

If you’re interested in the period and the players and don’t come to the story with a strong prejudice against Thomas Cromwell to start, I think Wolf Hall can be read and enjoyed as the well-written historical fiction about a fascinating man that it is.

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The Washington Post

Excellent
Reviewed by Wendy Smith on Oct 06 2009

...has created a novel both fresh and finely wrought: a brilliant portrait of a society in the throes of disorienting change, anchored by a penetrating character study of Henry's formidable advisor, Thomas Cromwell. I

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The Independent

Excellent
Reviewed by Lesley McDowell on Dec 19 2010

Hilary Mantel's portrait of the blacksmith's son who rose to become Henry VIII's right-hand man, and for a time, the most powerful individual in the country, is a tour de force.

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The Independent

Excellent
Reviewed by MARIANNE BRACE on May 08 2009

Mantel's writing is taut; the dialogue sprints along, witty and convincing. She draws her extensive cast with deft strokes.

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Huffington Post

Excellent
Reviewed by Peter Clothier on Aug 15 2012

...a fine, long historical novel by Hilary Mantel, and found myself for the most part engrossed in her rich detail of plot, character and social circumstance.

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The New Republic

Excellent
Reviewed by Peter Green on May 01 2012

...Mantel practices what she preaches, and the result draws you in, irresistibly, to the intense and dangerously competitive life of Henry’s court.

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London Review of Books

Excellent
Reviewed by Colin Burrow on Apr 30 2009

Mantel’s ability to pick out vivid scenes from sources and give them life within her fiction is quite exceptional.

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The New Yorker

Excellent
Reviewed by Joan Acocella on Oct 19 2009

The most striking feature of the book’s storytelling, however, is the tightness of its point of view. Everything is seen through Cromwell’s eyes

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The Atlantic

Excellent
Reviewed by CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS

Wolf Hall is a magnificent service to the language and literature whose early emancipation it depicts and also, in its demystifying of one of history’s wickedest men...

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Socialist Review

Excellent
Reviewed by Sasha Simic on Jun 01 2009

In this wonderful novel Hilary Mantel marshals a huge cast to bring the England of the early 1500s to vivid life.

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Musings of a Literary Dilettante's Blog

Good
Reviewed by John Boland on Apr 25 2012

This lack of inner awareness is wonderful characterisation. Cromwell’s as slippery as aThameseel.

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Rivers I Have Known

Good
Reviewed by Amritorupa Kanjilal on Jun 16 2012

For me, the most brilliant part of Wolf Hall is the fact that Mantel treats the reader like a person of equal intelligence. There is no spoon-feeding of story here...

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Asylum

Good
Reviewed by John Self on Oct 02 2009

He ingratiates himself with Henry – the scenes where they come to know one another are among the most electrifying in the book...

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Tudor Book Reviews

Below average
Reviewed by Tudor Book Reviews on Nov 10 2010

...although Hilary Mantel’s “Wolf Hall” won the Man Booker Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award, I just couldn’t get into it.

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Historical-Fiction.com

Good
Reviewed by Arleigh on Sep 15 2012

Thomas Cromwell...is given an honest voice as the protagonist in this minutely detailed, albeit partial, fictional autobiography.

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Booker Marks

Good
Reviewed by readerandrider on Jul 23 2012

What impressed me about Wolf Hall is the attention Mantel has to detail. She has long beautiful and flowing descriptions that allow the reader to feel the surroundings and to get a glimpse into exactly what Cromwell is thinking.

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A Universe in Words

Good
Reviewed by Juli Rahel on Oct 10 2012

It is a masterly book that clearly took a lot of imagination and dedication.

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Keep Going You Fool

Good
Reviewed by Jane Steen on May 11 2012

I thought Mantel created a great character: hard yet not cruel, never shying away from expediency but not seeking to take violent action for its own sake.

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Madame Guillotine

Good
Reviewed by Madame Guillotine on Mar 15 2012

,,,it’s just insanely entertaining and also moving. I seriously cannot recommend this book enough.

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Alma Marhamati 15 May 2016

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