Customer Review

699 of 775 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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Comments

Tracked by 5 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 16 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 16 Oct 2009 11:49:45 BDT
V. M. Wicks says:
I found this review extremely helpful as it has given me a good idea what the book is all about. I think I will definitely purchase it for my sister -in- law's Christmas present as it will be "right up her street".

Posted on 7 Dec 2009 20:37:56 GMT
Ben Griam says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

Posted on 8 Dec 2009 20:22:01 GMT
is good to share thoughts about what one reads.. civilises us all

Posted on 17 Dec 2009 16:27:22 GMT
Ben, it's only fair to point out that I am a Scot, albeit clearly one without a massive chip on my shoulder!

In reply to an earlier post on 27 Dec 2009 09:01:19 GMT
well said.

Posted on 6 Mar 2010 19:30:44 GMT
Thank you very much, I needed to know how fact based this was before I bought it, I will definitely be purchasing it now. :)

In reply to an earlier post on 10 Mar 2010 16:45:02 GMT
pitmillie says:
With reference to Ben Griam's post: Henry VIII was very relevant to Scottish history. John Knox, Calvinism, the Episcopalian Church, Protestantism v. Catholicism - any of this sound familiar? All very relevant to Henry VIII, Thomas Cromwell and the split with Rome. And who was Henry's daughter? Elizabeth I of England, whose successor was James VI of Scotland (and I of England.)

Posted on 11 Jun 2010 17:33:42 BDT
Yes, there's going to be a sequel (heard from the horses mouth) called The Mirror and the Light.

Posted on 13 Jun 2010 13:12:57 BDT
Chrissie P says:
I agree wholeheartedly with this review. I thought the book was superb and your comment that Hilary Mantel "breathes life and substance" into her characters sums up what makes this book so special. I wouldn't have thought it possible to give this much read period of history new life but that is what this book does.

In reply to an earlier post on 13 Jun 2010 13:13:46 BDT
Chrissie P says:
Will look forward to it
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