Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

Synopsis (courtesy of Blackwell Bookshop Online): Winner of the Man Booker Prize 2009 ‘Lock Cromwell in a deep dungeon in the morning,’ says Thomas More, ‘and when you come back that night he’ll be sitting on a plush cushion eating larks’ tongues, and all the gaolers will owe him money.’ England, the 1520s. Henry VIII is on the throne, but has no heir. Cardinal Wolsey is his chief advisor, charged with securing the divorce the pope refuses to grant. Into this atmosphere of distrust and need comes Thomas Cromwell, first as Wolsey’s clerk, and later his successor. Cromwell is a wholly original man: the son of a brutal blacksmith, a political genius, a briber, a charmer, a bully, a man with a delicate and deadly expertise in manipulating people and events. Ruthless in pursuit of his own interests, he is as ambitious in his wider politics as he is for himself. His reforming agenda is carried out in the grip of a self-interested parliament and a king who fluctuates between romantic passions and murderous rages. From one of our finest living writers, Wolf Hall is that very rare thing: a truly great English novel, one that explores the intersection of individual psychology and wider politics. With a vast array of characters, and richly overflowing with incident, it peels back history to show us Tudor England as a half-made society, moulding itself with great passion and suffering and courage.

Leave a comment


  1. moirabbc

     /  October 20, 2011

    I really don’t agree with the above comments – well, perhaps, with Jade, a little. It did take me a long time to read and also to get into the rhythm of the narration, sometimes not being sure who was speaking. The use of the present tense is often potentially awkward but I think it worked to make the character of Thomas Cromwell seem so vivid and as a powerful fixer and spin doctor, it brought to mind many contemporary political figures.
    I felt it was a novel of inspired obsession and I hear Mantell is working on a sequel – I hope to read it.

  2. madeleinebbc

     /  August 19, 2010

    I didn’t actually get round to reading the book, (having been bogged down with the Classics title) so maybe I shouldn’t be allowed to comment but here goes anyway…
    The general feeling at the meeting was that it was extremely hard work, and the pay back was possibly not worth the effort. I loved Jade’s comment that it was probably much like childbirth; she felt it was a long and painful slog, but she was glad she did it and would probably do it again with another one in a year or two.
    As for all these literary prizes… well I strongly suspect that this could be a case of The Emperor’s New Clothes.

  3. michelebbc

     /  June 21, 2010

    Just seen this in todays news! I must have missed something…

    Author Hilary Mantel’s novel Wolf Hall has won the inaugural £25,000 Walter Scott Prize for historical fiction.

    The book, set in the 16th century, previously won the £50,000 2009 Man Booker Prize and was shortlisted for the Orange prize.

    Judges praised Wolf Hall as “compulsively readable” at a ceremony at Sir Walter Scott’s home in Abbotsford, Scottish Borders.


  4. michelebbc

     /  June 21, 2010

    I never usually give up on a book but I found this one so relentlessy tedious that I only mangaged about a 1/4 of it. I’d be interested to hear what others thought after being away for the meeting.


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: