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Wolf Hall: A Novel

A book by Hilary Mantel

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"Princes are not obliged to consistency."

  • Aug 31, 2010
In her latest novel, Mantel has captured the spirit of the rebellion against the Church and a pope who will not bow to pressure and annul the marriage of Henry VII and Katherine of Aragon. It is only by this means that Henry can legally wed Anne Boleyn, the woman in whom he has invested his hopes of son and heir. Once enjoined, the battled is waged for years, one of the most significant players the base-born Thomas Cromwell, a lawyer of great talent, with the wit to appreciate the nature of this clash of wills. Henry will have his way: it is only a matter of when and at what cost. As the battle lines are drawn, Cromwell provides the perspective of a self-made man, trained in politics through his years in service to Thomas Wolsey, Archbishop of York. Although Wolsey will eventually fall before the weight of Henry's demands, Cromwell proves an avid student in the matter of politics and power, the dangers of ambition. He is quietly outraged by the cruelty of those who execute the details of Wolsey's fall from grace. A master of words and reason, Cromwell earns his reputation honestly, in thrall to no belief save the constructs of the law.

The cast of characters and political events are impressive, from the petulant Henry to the scheming Boleyn's, courtiers vying for favor in Henry's court, the stubborn and righteous nature of Thomas More, pursuer of heretics, the never-ending machinations on behalf of Katherine of Aragon's interests. Certainly the interpretation of God's will plays a major part in men's arguments regarding the resolution of Henry's "Great Matter". While the king impatiently waits for word from Rome, More lays siege to the king's arguments, counting all of Christendom and the saints on his side. Meanwhile, Cromwell guides the affairs of a king he has grown to love, befriending the clever Anne Boleyn, who burns with the desire to be Henry's queen. While reason and logic prevail- thanks to Cromwell's efforts- the Church endures, time the pope's greatest weapon.

Mantel's portrayal of Thomas Cromwell is nothing short of brilliant, his worldview shaped by experience and reason, balancing the strengths and limitations of friend and foe, whether Anne Boleyn, lifelong adversary Bishop Gardiner, the combative prelate Thomas More, who tortures both heretics and himself, relishing pain for God's sake, even the bitter Jane Rochford, jealous wife of Anne's brother, George, "lonely and breeding a savage heart". Cromwell is intimate with power, knowledgeable about finance, commerce and governance, feared and hated by many, but loved by those he has brought into his home. Cromwell's fate is yet unknown at the end of this superb novel, which culminates with the beheading of Thomas More. This tumultuous period of king vs. church is viewed through the eyes of a base-born man, the history of England forever changed by a willful Tudor king's determination to wrest his future from the domination of the Vatican. Luan Gaines/2010.

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September 10, 2010
As an aside, the Huntington Library has a display of authors' manuscripts. Despite their diminution in this electronic age, the most recent writer's Mantel, a few fountain-pen notes alongside a copy of "Wolf Hall." Not sure how many to come will be featured in that library! I'd been meaning to read this novel, so thanks for the recommendation. (Update: I read it and reviewed it, quite a feat of recovering a fascinating time period!)
More Wolf Hall: A Novel reviews
review by . February 20, 2011
Deservedly a Booker Prize winner, this ambitious story conveys a novel of ideas as well as of (half-)familiar figures. It narrates an unlikely hero, a flawed protagonist, a conniving yet moral-minded man at the heart of the court of Henry the Eighth, as he plots to divorce Katherine of Aragon so as to marry Anne Boleyn. Many reviewers have emphasized Thomas Cromwell's role here as bitterly opposed to Thomas More, but Hilary Mantel presents both chancellors as equally obstinate in their convictions. …
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Luan Gaines ()
Ranked #108
An artist/writer, I have traveled the world, walked on the moon and learned the complicated language of humanity, the enormity of the universe... all through the written word. My first passport was a … more
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Amazon Best of the Month, October 2009:No character in the canon has been writ larger than Henry VIII, but that didn't stop Hilary Mantel. She strides through centuries, past acres of novels, histories, biographies, and plays--even past Henry himself--confident in the knowledge that to recast history's most mercurial sovereign, it's not the King she needs to see, but one of the King's most mysterious agents. Enter Thomas Cromwell, a self-made man and remarkable polymath who ascends to the King's right hand. Rigorously pragmatic and forward-thinking, Cromwell has little interest in what motivates his Majesty, and although he makes way for Henry's marriage to the infamous Anne Boleyn, it's the future of a free England that he honors above all else and hopes to secure. Mantel plots with a sleight of hand, making full use of her masterful grasp on the facts without weighing down her prose. The opening cast of characters and family trees may give initial pause to some readers, but persevere: the witty, whip-smart lines volleying the action forward may convince you a short stay in the Tower of London might not be so bad... provided you could bring a copy ofWolf Hallalong. --Anne Bartholomew--This text refers to theHardcoveredition.
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ISBN-10: 0312429983
ISBN-13: 978-0312429980
Author: Hilary Mantel
Genre: Literature & Fiction
Publisher: Picador
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