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710 of 789 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A magnificent tale
Anyone who paid attention in history classes at school will need little background to the events of Wolf Hall. The key events of the story take place over just less than a ten year period from the 1520s to the 1530s. Mantel has taken what is, supposedly, Britain's best loved history topic, Henry VIII and his divorce from Catherine of Aragon, marriage to Anne Boleyn and...
Published on 16 Jun 2009 by R. W. Mackenzie

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1,122 of 1,201 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Is it me, or is the grammar atrocious...?
My first book review, and I'm writing it because I'm annoyed. After reading much praise and noticing Mantel had won the booker prize I bought myself a Kindle version, but within a few pages I started becoming distracted by the structure of the writing.

I hesitate to challenge Mantel's grammar because I already know how well this book has been received, but from...
Published on 13 July 2012 by Mr. P. Benson


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1,122 of 1,201 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Is it me, or is the grammar atrocious...?, 13 July 2012
By 
Mr. P. Benson "PJB" (Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Wolf Hall (Hardcover)
My first book review, and I'm writing it because I'm annoyed. After reading much praise and noticing Mantel had won the booker prize I bought myself a Kindle version, but within a few pages I started becoming distracted by the structure of the writing.

I hesitate to challenge Mantel's grammar because I already know how well this book has been received, but from my point of view it's all over the place. I'm well aware that the rules of syntax can be broken for a number of good reasons, but if Mantel's approach is deliberate then it's completely lost on me.

The first problem is the use of the word 'he', at every opportunity, to refer to all of the three, four, or five people participating in the same scene. You're often left having to re-read every other sentence and to try and guess which person is speaking or being referred to. So determined to stick pronouns everywhere the author often puts one unnecessarily in front of a person's name "He, Cromwell, said..."

The second problem is the inconsistent format for denoting speech. Sometimes it has quotes around it, sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes you're reading something a character is thinking followed by what he's saying and then, even, what the narrator thinks about it, but without any syntactical indication of which is which.

Elsewhere there are multiple people speaking in the same paragraph, with and without quotes. Why?

Here's a good example of much of the above - all quotes and commas exactly as in the text:

'Yes, yes,' Cavendish says, 'we'll order up the barge.'
Good, he says, and the cardinal says, Putney? and he tries to laugh. He says, well, Thomas, you told Gascoigne, you did; there's something about that man I never have liked, and he says, why did you keep him them? and the cardinal says, oh, well, ones does, and again the cardinal says, Putney, eh?
He says, 'Whatever we face at journey's end...'

After a short while you begin to realise that 'he' is often Cromwell... except on the myriad occasions when it's not.

I hope this is not me being thick - I'm no scholar but I have read plenty of challenging books, written centuries apart in many different styles. I'm not convinced this is a deliberate style, but then I keep reminding myself it must have been edited and reviewed by somebody who makes it their business to scrutinise these things, and then it went on to win a prestigious writing award. Maybe I am being thick.

Leaving the grammar aside it reads like it's been heavily abridged and the narrative skims across time so rapidly it's often like reading a montage - a series of vignettes. Some characters are dwelled upon, others appear to step forward for a single line and then stand quietly to one side like a bit-part in a play. It's often as if the assumption is we're all Tudor historians and only need to read the person's name to understand their significance.

I'm giving this three out of five because I'm a big fan of well researched, rich, historical, fact-based fiction. This book could have been a favourite of mine, as it appears to be for many others, but it's let down too much by the choice (let's assume it's deliberate) of grammar and structure.

It's a comfort at least to know that I'm not alone:
[...]

A year after Mantel won the Booker Prize for Wolf Hall David Mitchell's 'The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet' failed to make it past the long-list. Mitchell's book is also a well researched, historical and (partially) fact-based book of a similar length. For me there is no comparison at all. Mitchell's writing is breathtaking; Mantel's is distracting. With Mitchell I was completely immersed, standing alongside the characters while the plot unfolded, with Mantel I was staring at some text on a page and trying to make sense of it.
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480 of 515 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A review written using the literary style of Hilary Mantel, 28 Jan 2013
This review is from: Wolf Hall (Paperback)
She, the reviewer, thinks that she, Mantel, has written a novel which manages to be both stimulating and frustrating. She starts to ask herself `Why did she detract from the quality of her work by adopting such a silly writing style?' but then she remembers that she, Mantel, often doesn't put speech inside speech marks, and so she resolves not to do so for the rest of her review.

She, the reviewer, says, she has written a wonderfully plausible account of his, Cromwell's, thought processes. Which other novel does a better job of getting inside the mind of a major historical character, she asks herself. None that she can think of, she concludes. And she appreciates how wonderfully, through the medium of his thoughts, she has managed to illuminate life in Tudor London. She very much enjoys some of the rich humour in her descriptions of his dealings with people at all levels of society ranging from him, Henry, down to near-paupers. She also marvels at her wide-ranging research, which provides a wealth of historical detail and contains almost no errors. She says, almost, because she does detect a few minor mistakes, for example her description of his, Cromwell's, accusation that one of his, Norfolk's, ancestors helped to "disappear" the princes in the tower; which leads her to say, doesn't she, Mantel, realise that the use of "disappear" as a transitive verb only started in the late 20th century and was surely unknown in Tudor England? But she forgives her for such minor lapses: she says, they aren't important when set against all the good things in the book.

But then she thinks of a few things that perhaps are important blemishes. She wonders how she can write about the Tudor court and make relatively little effort to get inside her, Anne Boleyn's, mind, and her, Catherine of Aragon's, mind; not to mention his, Henry's, mind. She concludes that although she captures him brilliantly, she doesn't really illuminate the overall politics of the Tudor court very well; she thinks that she, Philippa Gregory, does a better job in this respect though she readily accepts that she, Mantel, is a more rounded literary novelist.

Then she asks herself why she makes the book unnecessarily long by inserting so many scenes with minor and largely inconsequential characters. She is almost tempted to skim her reading of some of these passages.

And she also thinks that she is over-rated by the professional critics. She marvels at the book's dust-jacket, which quotes Diana Athill comparing Wolf Hall with Middlemarch. She, the reviewer, thinks, does she, Athill, really think that she, Mantel, is as good as her, George Eliot? She doesn't think so: she says, no character in Wolf Hall, not even he, is as entertainingly infuriating as Middlemarch's Edward Casaubon; and Wolf Hall isn't as broad-themed and timeless as Middlemarch. And she also reflects that if she were to review Middlemarch using the literary style of her, George Eliot, she would be able to write her review in proper English.

And that brings her back to her starting point: why does she, Mantel, degrade the quality of her novel by choosing to write it in a style that looks like an entry for Private Eye's Pseuds Corner? Does she think it's sophisticated? If so, she thinks she's very wrong.
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859 of 933 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Worthy but no need for it to be so confusing, 21 Oct 2009
By 
Mr. Paul J. Wyatt (Derby, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Wolf Hall (Hardcover)
Have finished this book and am sure it's very worthy of all the accolades but I really found this quite a hard slog and I'm quite a prolific reader. The story is really interesting but I am so glad to see other reviewers on here that had the same horrendous problem of trying to follow who was talking whenever there is any dialogue. Fair enough to refer to Cromwell as "he" if you're going to stick to that and use it exclusively, but when you use "he" for other people during the same conversation, it's really confusing and I found myself having to re-read paragraphs containing dialogue (as a result this took me so much longer to read than normal and I feel like I've read it 3 times). Obviously am not one to comment on such a good writer but it would have been so much more of a pleasure (rather than a chore) to read if it had been either written in first person or clearer reference used as to who is talking.
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710 of 789 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A magnificent tale, 16 Jun 2009
This review is from: Wolf Hall (Hardcover)
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Anyone who paid attention in history classes at school will need little background to the events of Wolf Hall. The key events of the story take place over just less than a ten year period from the 1520s to the 1530s. Mantel has taken what is, supposedly, Britain's best loved history topic, Henry VIII and his divorce from Catherine of Aragon, marriage to Anne Boleyn and the resulting split with Rome and has melded it into a compelling story.

She has obviously had some of her work done for her - the key dramatic events, characters, plots and intrigue are fairly heavily based in fact, but what Mantel has done is to breathe life and substance into the historial figures to make them loveable, hateable, complex characters. At the centre of her book stands Thomas Cromwell, a man from humble origins who rose to unprecedented power in England as Henry's chief minister. Cromwell is beautifully portrayed and his personal relationships, be they loving, tragic or political are fascinating reading. The relationships with Wolsey and More in particular are executed wonderfully (no pun intended in the latter case).

My only grumble with the book were that some events are included, but skated over in short passages and other events are included, but drag a little. This is probably an inevitable part of a historical novel covering such a long period of time; you can't simply leap forward 2 years and avoid the need to understand certain intervening events. However, whilst this slows the pace of the book in places, I enjoyed the book so much that it didn't particularly spoil it for me (indeed, those who prefer a fast paced novel are probably not going to enjoy Wolf Hall).

The book ends shortly after the death of Thomas More, and I can't be only one who wonders (and hopes) whether we might yet see a second, "decline and fall" book. I'd certainly love to read it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Confusing .... or is it just me?, 19 Mar 2013
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This review is from: Wolf Hall (Paperback)
After reading many great reviews for this book, I was so looking forward to reading it. However, I am finding it hard going! I am not a particularly fast reader, but has taken me a week (reading only for a short time at bedtime) to reach page 140 which is slow going even for me! I find I'm having to re-read whole passages to establish who is saying what to whom. Some dialogue is in quotes, some is not as it is being recalled by someone else, but that's not really clear until you re-read it. It also seems to 'jump' around in time - one minute it is in the 'present' with Cromwell talking to someone, then it veers off and he is talking or recalling a conversation with someone else at a different time, but without any clear indication that this is what's happening - it's just all in amongst! I am finding it difficult to actually explain what I mean but I think if you read it, you will see.

I have read many historical novels over the years, mostly to do with the Tudors and have even read quite a bit of non-fiction on the subject, but I am finding this book one of the most difficult to get into. I will, however, persevere as I never start a book and not finish it. Maybe it's just the author's style of writing, which is different from anything else I've read, that I need to get used to. So ... if my opinion has changed by the time I get to the end of the book, I will let you know. I would be interested to know if anyone else shares my view - or am I just not as bright as I thought I was??!!
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53 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 'Some are lies and some are true; but they are all good stories', 12 Sep 2011
This review is from: Wolf Hall (Hardcover)
Mantel's Thomas Cromwell, the hero of this novel, is a man out of time, a modern man caught on the borderline between the superstitious Middle Ages and our more enlightened - but still angst-ridden - world. The very notion of Cromwell as an heroic figure goes against the grain, the received wisdom of standard histories in which the man is customarily presented as a ruthless schemer, an opportunist without morals or positive emotions; yet here he is, a sentimental family man, and not merely a first-class brain but someone with feelings and flaws, fully human:

'He can draft a contract, train a falcon, draw a map, stop a street fight, furnish a house and fix a jury. He will quote you a nice point in the old authors, from Plato to Plautus and back again. He knows new poetry, and can say it in Italian. He works all hours, first up and last to bed. He makes money and he spends it. He will take a bet on anything.'

Wolf Hall's story - that grand, bloodstained and unforgettable period of Queen Catherine's fall and Anne Boleyn's rise - is of course well known but very well told; in fact, I doubt there's ever been a better English historical novel. In truth, there's almost too much to praise: every character, no matter how minor, is memorable; there are subtle forerunners of future Royal tragedies, unthought of in the Tudor period (Catherine's tightly-bound bodice is 'bejewelled as if to ward off blows' reminding one of the tragic Romanovs' fates); there are sublime moments when we step outside of the story's main thrust - Shakespearean interludes when the reader can almost see the mist rising from the Thames, hear the cries of the boatsmen, watch dandelion clocks borne on the summer breeze - while Mantel has Cromwell's thoughts tell us home truths that the sheer distraction of this world's 'show business' obscures:

'The fate of peoples is made like this, two men in small rooms. Forget the coronations, the conclaves of cardinals, the pomp and processions. This is how the world changes: a counter pushed across a table, a pen stroke that alters the force of a phrase, a woman's sigh as she passes and leaves on the air a trail of orange flower or rose water; her hand pulling close the bed curtain, the discreet sigh of flesh against flesh.'

The old cliché is nevertheless true of Wolf Hall: all human life can be found here, its good and its bad. The prose perfectly portrays those brutal, beautiful times, and is peerless. Forget the trashy 'Tudors' and a thousand other bodice-rippers - Wolf Hall is everything that is brilliant and rewarding about the best stories, and this one in particular tells the most enticing truths and nontruths.

An astounding book, easily the most magnificent history lesson I've ever received.
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114 of 128 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I really wanted to like this book but..., 25 Oct 2012
By 
Wobette (The Wild West) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Wolf Hall (Kindle Edition)
I have made a number of attempts to read this... because I love history, I love the tudors and I am fascinated by Thomas Cromwell. But each time I have given up because I find the plodding narrative style distracting and hard to keep up with who is who.

As has been commented on before Hilary Mantle's has a habit of repeated using "He" and "Him" when there are a number of people in the frame and she leaves it unclear who is speak and to whom, making this hard work when it should be enjoyable.

It is very well researched and that is what makes it even more fustrating for me

I really want to enjoy this but I can't
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Difficult style made it impossible to enjoy, 4 Aug 2014
By 
K. Stephenson (Chesterfield) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Wolf Hall (Kindle Edition)
I had heard good things about this book, however I found the style exceptionally difficult to read and had to give up on it. The plot was difficult to follow, purely because I couldn't make sense of who was speaking when, and who was who. Trying to read this book was like wading through treacle, and at no point was it the enjoyable experience that reading should be.

I had to make constant references to Wikipedia and other online sources, which may be blamed on my lack of historical knowledge having only covered the Tudor period in primary school, however this made the reading process even longer and not ideal for reading without the internet to hand.

I realise this may sound as though I am uneducated and a bit thick - and I was worried that maybe it was because I was more stupid than I thought I was that I was having trouble with this book. Fortunately, other Amazon reviews have assured me that this is not the case!

The only plus side of this book is that at least my historical knowledge is a little improved, but only because otherwise I wouldn't have stood a chance at understanding this book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Wolf Hall Review, 8 Jan 2013
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This review is from: Wolf Hall (Kindle Edition)
I think this is a book that is better read in paper book form than on a Kindle.There are so many characters and the who's who at the start of the book is too small to read and I could not enlarge the font on those pages.(Lots of different Thomass for example). Flicking from the current reading page to the start is not so easy on the Kindle.
The history aspect of the book is interesting but the book is a bit too long for my liking. I wanted to finish it but was not particularly enjoying some parts.It is also difficult to follow who is speaking as there are not many speech marks. Reading the book encouraged me to look up details on certain historical characters to find out more about them. Thomas Cromwell, the main character especially as I had never heard of him before. I wanted to know what happened to him and how, if at all, he was related to Oliver.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Too difficult to read, 6 Aug 2013
This review is from: Wolf Hall (Kindle Edition)
I have tried very hard with this book, but I have finally given up around half way through. The writing style is ridiculous. It is very hard indeed to follow who is talking and about who. I liked the idea on the whole of the story, but life is far too short to get a headache every time you want to read your book. I love reading historical novels, but hated reading this.
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Wolf Hall
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
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