Synopses & Reviews
In the ruthless arena of King Henry VIIIs court, only one man dares to gamble his life to win the kings 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 kings 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.
"Set aside a full day to savor Simon Slater's delightful reading of the Booker Prize winning tale of Henry VIII's court, seen through the eyes of his adviser Thomas Cromwell. Mantel's revisionist take turns Cromwell so frequently vilified as in A Man for All Seasons into a modern sort of hero, shrewd and adaptable. Slater's narration is nuanced and precise; he breathes feeling and subtle shades of emotion into every exchange of dialogue. His is a heroic undertaking, and he does admirable justice to Mantel's lucid prose and juicy plot. A Holt hardcover (Reviews, Aug. 17). (Dec.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
2010 AUDIE AWARD FINALIST: LITERARY FICTION
iTUNES: BEST AUDIOBOOKS OF 2009
THE WASHINGTON POST: TOP AUDIOS OF 2009
AUDIOFILE MAGAZINE EARPHONES AWARD WINNER Praise for the audio edition of WOLF HALL: “The 2009 Man Booker Prize-winning novel about Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIIIs fixer and counselor has been brilliantly served by English actor (and composer) Simon Slater. He gives an ironic, Machiavellian edge to his voice as general narrator and renders the myriad characters with exceptional virtuosity. This performance is the best of the year: an absolute triumph, further enhancing an already magnificent novel.” - The Washington Post, Top Audio Books of 09 “Set aside a full day to savor Simon Slaters delightful reading of the Booker Prize-winning tale of Henry VIIIs court, seen through the eyes of his adviser Thomas Cromwell…Slaters narration is nuanced and precise; he breathes feeling and subtle shades of emotion into every exchange of dialogue. His is a heroic undertaking, and he does admirable justice to Mantels lucid prose and juicy plot.” - Publishers Weekly, Starred Review “Slater seems to inhabit Cromwells very soul, his voice imbued with urbane assurance, dark despair, calculating ambition, and sardonic wit. Each character rings true…Mantels masterpiece, winner of the Man Booker Prize for Fiction, 2009, entrances with a gripping immediacy that carries listeners to a cliff-hanger ending, leaving fans clamoring for a sequel.” -Booklist, Starred Review “Simon Slaters inspired narration of this years Booker Prize novel, set in the court of Henry VIII, is on every count one of this years outstanding audiobooks.” - AudioFile, Earphones Award Winner “Read by Simon Slater in possibly the best performance of his career, Wolf Hall...never ceases to be gripping...the best audio book of the year.” - The Winston-Salem Journal “Simon Slater does a masterful job of capturing Mantels abundant and diverse characters.” - Newsday “Simon Slaters reading is equal to Mantels masterpiece, his voice shifting to match each speaker, with touches of rough British dialect, German and French accents expertly handled.” - BookPage, Audio of the Month "Simon Slater's performance brings Thomas Cromwell out of history and into humanity." - FictionAudiobooks "If you haven't read the most absorbing, beautifully written book of 2009, wait no longer. Better yet, listen to it, for you cannot imagine the 16th century coming to life as it does in the hands of author Hilary Mantel and reader Simon Slater in Wolf Hall." - Newark Star Ledger "Mantel gets the rich pageantry and conniving schemes just right in her richly detailed historical saga, and Slater gets Mantel just right as well. His reading does justice to the novel's language, slipping into character voices as deftly as Cromwell negotiated court politics." - Library Journal
“Listeners unfamiliar with British history will find Slaters present-tense narration, as told through Cromwells perspective, an ideal method of storytelling, turning formidable historical figures into intriguing personalities. Slater seems to inhabit Cromwells very soul, his voice imbued with urbane assurance, dark despair, calculating ambition, and sardonic wit.” - Booklist, Starred Review
"Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall
is a startling achievement, a brilliant historical novel focused on the rise to power of a figure exceedingly unlikely, on the face of things, to arouse any sympathy at all . . . . This is a novel too in which nothing is wasted, and nothing completely disappears."Stephen Greenblatt, The New York Review of Books
"On the origins of this once-world-shaking combat, with its still-vivid acerbity and cruelty, Hilary Mantel has written a historical novel of quite astonishing power. . . . With breathtaking subtletyone quite ceases to notice the way in which she takes on the most intimate male habits of thought and speechMantel gives us a Henry who is sexually pathetic, and who needs a very down-to-earth counselor. . . . The means by which Mantel grounds and anchors her action so convincingly in the time she describes, while drawing so easily upon the past and hinting so indirectly at the future, put her in the very first rank of historical novelists. . . . 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, a service to the justice that Josephine Tey first demanded in The Daughter of Time."Christopher Hitchens, The Atlantic
"Whether we accept Ms Mantel's reading of history or not, her characters have a lifeblood of their own . . . . a Shakespearean vigour. Stylistically, her fly-on-the-wall approach is achieved through the present tense, of which she is a master. Her prose is muscular, avoiding cod Tudor dialogue and going for direct modern English. The result is Ms Mantel's best novel yet."The Economist
"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. It's no wonder that her masterful book just won this year's Booker Prize . . . [Mantel's prose is] extraordinarily flexible, subtle, and shrewd."Wendy Smith, The Washington Post
"[Mantel's] interest is in the question of good and evil as it applies to people who wield great power. That means anguish, exultation, deals, spies, decapitations, and fabulous clothes . . . She always goes for color, richness, music. She has read Shakespeare closely. One also hears the accents of the young James Joyce."Joan Acocella, The New Yorker
"Dazzling . . . .Thomas Cromwell remains a controversial and mysterious figure. Mantel has filled in the blanks plausibly, brilliantly. Wolf Hall has epic scale but lyric texture. Its 500-plus pages turn quickly, winged and falconlike . . . . both spellbinding and believable."Christopher Benfey, The New York Times Book Review
"Mantel's abilities to channel the life and lexicon of the past are nothing short of astonishing. She burrows down through the historical record to uncover the tiniest, most telling details, evoking the minutiae of history as vividly as its grand sweep. The dialogue is so convincing that she seems to have been, in another life, a stenographer taking notes in the taverns and palaces of England."Ross King, Los Angeles Times
"Darkly magnificent . . . Instead of bringing the past to us, her writing, brilliant and black, launches us disconcertingly into the past. We are space-time travelers landed in an alien world . . . history is a feast whose various and vital excitements and intrigues make the book a long and complex pleasure."Richard Eder, The Boston Globe
"Arch, elegant, richly detailed . . . [Wolf Hall's] main characters are scorchingly well rendered. And their sharp-clawed machinations are presented with nonstop verve in a book that can compress a wealth of incisiveness into a very few well-chosen words . . . Deft and diabolical as they are, Ms. Mantel's slyly malicious turns of phrase . . . succinctly capture the important struggles that have set her characters talking."Janet Maslin, The New York Times
"The essential Mantel element . . . is a styleof writing and of thinkingthat combines steely-eyed intelligence with intense yet wide-ranging sympathy. This style implies enormous respect for her readers, as if she believes that we are as intelligent and empathetic as she is, and one of the acute pleasures of reading her books is that we sometimes find ourselves living up to those expectations. . . . If you are anything like me, you will finish Wolf Hall wishing it were twice as long as its 560 pages. Torn away from this sixteenth-century world, in which you have come to know the engaging, pragmatic Cromwell as if he were your own brotheras if he were yourselfyou will turn to the Internet to find out more about him . . . But none of this, however instructive will make up for your feeling of loss, because none of this additional material will come clothed in the seductive, inimitable language of Mantel's great fiction."Wendy Lesser, Bookforum
"Mantel sets a new standard for historical fiction with her latest novel Wolf Hall, a riveting portrait of Thomas Cromwell . . . Mantel's crystalline style, piercing eye and interest in, shall we say, the darker side of human nature, together with a real respect for historical accuracy, make this novel an engrossing, enveloping read."BookPage
"The story of Cromwell's rise shimmers in Ms. Mantel's spry intelligent prose . . . [Mantel] leaches out the bones of the story as it is traditionally known, and presents to us a phantasmagoric extravaganza of the characters' plans and ploys, toils and tactics."Washington Times
"Historical fiction at its finest, Wolf Hall captures the character of a nation and its people. It exemplifies something that has lately seemed as mythical as those serpent princesses: the great English novel."Bloomberg News
"There are no new stories, only new ways of telling them. Set during Henry VIII's tumultuous, oft-covered reign, this epic novel . . . proves just how inspired a fresh take can be. [Mantel] is an author as audacious as Anne [Boleyn] herself, imagining private conversations between public figures and making it read as if she had a glass to the wall."People Magazine (four stars, People Pick)
"Fans of historical fictionor great writingshould howl with delight."USA Today
"[Mantel] wades into the dark currents of 16th century English politics to sculpt a drama and a protagonist with a surprisingly contemporary feel . . . Wolf Hall is sometimes an ambitious read. But it is a rewarding one as well."Marjorie Kehe, The Christian Science Monitor
"This masterwork is full of gems for the careful reader. The recurring details alone . . . shine through like some kind of Everyman's poetry. Plainspoken and occasionally brutal, Wolf Hall is both as complex and as powerful as its subject, as messy as life itself."Clea Simon, The Boston Phoenix
"Reader, you're in excellent hands with Hilary Mantel . . . for this thrumming, thrilling read. . . . Part of the delight of masterfully paced Wolf Hall is how utterly modern it feels. It is political intrigue pulsing with energy and peopled by historical figures who have never seemed more aliveand more human."Ellen Kanner, Miami Herald
"Wolf Hall is a solid historical novel that's also a compelling read . . . Mantel's narrative manages to be both rich and lean: there's plenty of detail, but it's not piled in endless paragraphs. The plot flows swiftly from one development to the next."David Loftus, The Oregonian
"[Mantel] seamlessly blends fiction and history and creates a stunning story of Tudor England . . . . With its excellent plotting and riveting dialogue, Wolf Hall is a gem of a novel that is both accurate and gripping."Cody Corliss, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
"[A] spirited novel . . . . Mantel has a solid grasp of court politics and a knack for sharp, cutting dialogue."Thom Geier, Entertainment Weekly
"This is in all respects a superior work of fiction, peopled with appealing characters living through a period of tense high drama‚There will be few novels this year as good as this one."Library Journal, starred review
"Mixing fiction with fact, Mantel captures the atmosphere of the times and brings to life the important players."Publishers Weekly
In the ruthless arena of King Henry VIIIs court, one man dares to gamble his life to win the kings favor and ascend to the heights of political power.
About the Author
Hilary Mantel is the author of Wolf Hall, winner of the 2009 Man Booker Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award, and shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction. She is also the author of A Change of Climate, A Place of Greater Safety, Eight Months on Ghazzah Street, An Experiment in Love, The Giant, O'Brien, Fludd, Every Day Is Mother's Day, Vacant Possession, and Beyond Black, which was shortlisted for the Orange Prize. 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. She lives in England.