I don’t typically review a book until I have completely finished it, but the flurry of fairly negative reviews prompts me to jump in early. This book is a masterpiece, and the performance (it’s not fair to call it a mere narration) is similarly spectacular. I’m a Brit by birth so was brought up on the mystique of Henry and his infamous six wives. The rhyme of the ends of their lives; divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived is beaten into us at a young age. So maybe I’m not tripping over the historical context as much as other readers. I’d really recommend taking a couple of minutes to review a few Wikipedia articles on the king and his times before diving in if this period is a mystery to you. That sounds like work…but it’s worth it. If you can get past the basic Tudor names and events you will greatly enjoy this immersive hypnotic story and its telling. The period was so formative of our modern world, the break from Rome and the reformation all had roots in years covered by this story. The characters are fascinating, well drawn and beautifully performed. Before this story Cromwell and Cranmer were drab outlines, this telling breathes life into them making the tumultuous period live and vibrant. If you enjoyed Game of Thrones on HBO or pretty much any historic fiction you will love this book. Even if you aren’t a fan of Brit history and royal dictators your will find this beautifully told tale will take the head off your shoulders….
I read all the reviews saying this book was hard to follow, but since I know something about the history of that period, and since I love good historical fiction (I thoroughly enjoyed Innocent Traitor recently, for example) I thought I would become engrossed in a long and exciting account from Thomas Cromwell's perspective. But it in fact is almost impossible to stay with. It finally dawned on me in Part 2 that when the author used "he" and "him" she was usually referring to Cromwell. I gave up trying to rewind. I wish I could like this book; it's very well written. As others have said, maybe reading it rather than listening to it would have been a better idea.
Wolf Hall is a perfect book. The audiobook is almost perfect. Thomas More's vocal characterization is drippingly evil and snakelike, and it doesn't fit the characterization in the book, which presents more as earnestly fanatical and unexpectedly sly. Several times the narrator confuses the voices, due to the confusing pronouns in the book. He will do a Cromwell voice, for example, when Thomas More is talking.
The Wosley voice is perfect, and Henry sounds regal. Anne, if possible, sounds over-regal, and Chapuys is fun to listen to.
OK--I was about to stop after listening to it for over half of the narrative, and, looking at the existing reviews, decided to plunge back in to see if I could finish. With that said, it does have some very good moments and it is indeed fascinating, but some of the long passages of dialogue become much like being forced to overhear long and boring conversations . . . I kept losing the thread and wishing there was more detail and more variation of the pace and the structure. But, I'm going 'back in.' I'll add to this review when I finish it to say if the entire experience seemed worth it, overall . . . But, not for the faint of heart!
This book is great! An old story told in the clever perspective of Thomas Cromwell. As great as the book is it doesn't compare with the narrator. Simon Slater is a genius. With his voices and inflections he pulls us into 16th century England as if we were living there amidst all the drama and angst.
One of the best stories in history should have been riveting. Although well researched and historically accurate, Mantel's insistence on using personal pronouns without a referent requires constant rereading (rewinding) once the reader figures out who she's talking about. Rather than a stylistic innovation it only comes across as literary affectation that detracts from the readers ability to become engrossed in the narrative. Should have been five stars with a good editor putting her foot down with the author.
After reading nothing but great reviews for this series, and loving this period, I bought both books. I thought they were both so boring that I was having a hard time staying attentive. And then the endings were just there. Not the least bit satisfying. Sorry, but I wouldn't recommend this to anyone.
Very few books totally capture both my imagination and interest, "Wolf Hall" is one of those rare book that does. The story tells of times in Britain's history where a king's marriage, and its legality, based on questions of virginity and "incest" (by marrying your brother's wife), are debated in courts, in pulpits, and in other countries. Intriguing and filled with intrigue, Hilary Mantel's story of the trials of Anne Boleyn, King Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon, as told through the character of Thomas Cromwell weaves an intricate story that is impossible to ignore. Surely the only complaint I can make is that I had to actually pay attention to the story as I listened to it play out! No sentence was superfluous. No introduction of characters without merit. No storyline irrelevant.
Outstanding in every way, I award this book my highest praise. As a persnickety reader and listener, I usually read and listen to books that meet some of my criteria for being worthwhile. This book met all my criteria. Interesting, fast paced, strong women protagonists, great vocabulary, believable story, heart wrenching in some category, a yearning for more, sense of loss when the story ended. Brava to Hilary Mantel, bravo to narrator Simon Slater, bravo to all of us smart enough to read this book!
This book had me entranced from the moment it began. I would have loved had I read it - but listening was an even greater pleasure, the narrator Simon Slater has a wonderful voice and cadence. The characters are beautifully drawn, though I don't know how accurately, I want more! I hope Mantel follows King Henry and Cromwell forward in another book soon!
This is a stunning book and it's not easy to decide how best to praise it. Mantel has elucidated a world in brilliant detail. The underlying psychological tissue of the story is so compelling, lightly rendered yet tightly woven that I am left with the impression that we can really understand Thomas Cromwell in some meaningful way. If on the other hand Mantel's Cromwell is merely an artful illusion it is of no importance. She has given life to one of the great characters in modern literature, along with a world for him - and for us - to inhabit.