This is a long, rich complex historical novel and for many people this unabridged audio version will be an excellent way to get to know such a lengthy work. But some caution may be necessary . Simon Slater reads the basic narrative well and gives a gripping portrayal of Thomas Cromwell, the main focus of interest in this account of the reign of Henry VIII to 1535. But although he is clearly aware of the necessity of some differentiation for other important characters, his solutions are not always convincing and fail to do justice to the subtlety and detail of Hilary Mantel's writing :Cardinal Wolsey sounds dimwitted, Thomas More - far from a saintly character in this novel- sounds sly and slimy and the old nobility blustering idiots. In each case there is an element of truth in the portrayal but they come across too often as cardboard cut-outs.
Most readers will also find that they will need to have or to acquire a good knowledge of Early Tudor history to appreciate fully what Hilary Mantel is attempting in this book. There is much fascinating detail and insight to enjoy but in the end I was left feeling the book could profitably have been more tautly focussed and better structured ? it seems to peter out rather than reach a proper closure -is a sequel intended?
Certainly then on the whole a worthwhile audiobook but be prepared for a text that is occasionally self indulgent ? repetitious and over detailed ? and a reading that is enjoyable but unconvincing and inadequate in places.
"Excellent book - historic brilliance"
I was so glad that I noticed this book came before Bring up the Bodies - it is a great introduction to the court of King Henry VIII, Catherine of Aragon, Anne Bolyne, Thomas Moore and other personalities surrounding each of them. It holds nothing back and shows the barbarity, brutality and politics of the time all moulded into a fabulous story. It will not disappoint anyone wanting to hear a factual history story and Simon Slater does a very good job of setting the ambience. Start it up - and enjoy.
As a historical novel this is superb and as a portrait of people in any age is also very good. Simon Slater is also fantastic and made the characters come to life.
"Good book, poor narrator"
I enjoyed this book, even though I did find the use of 'he' to refer to Cromwell a little grating at times. However, I have to say that the narration really put me off - the lack of difference in voices stopped the dialogue really coming alive for me, as there seem to be only three types - gruff, lordly, and simpering, with almost no difference in accents. Also, the reader's inability to pronounce several simple words, like 'secretary', snags in the ear and stops you from being able to enjoy the story. He sounded half-asleep at some points, which doesn't help the reader feel engaged with the events he is narrating.
Overall, though, I would recommend this book, as Mantel brings the events, perceptions, and characters of the 16th century alive and constructs a wide-ranging narrative well - although I would perhaps recommend reading it in paper form, rather than the audiobook.
"A wolf whistle"
I have titled my review as 'wolf whistle' because this audiobook is a beautiful and utterly absorbing listen and well narrated. This is an historical tale rich in characters, detail, history and locations - it draws you in totally and paints a picture so real that you feel like a hidden observer looking over the shoulder of Thomas Cromwell into the murky, intriguing, 'dog eat dog' politically brutal court of Henry VIII. Cromwell comes across as the english political chess champion of his times, a principled polygot and more importantly a survivour, able to stay alive by utilising his gift of talents amongst the leviathans of this tudor period. The language of the book is rich and wonderfully descriptive. I could not stop listening to it every spare moment I had and wil relisten again soon. I wholly recommend this book to you and rest assured I will be amonst the first in line for Hilary Mantel's follow up which I believe is near to completion.
"Not the best book for narration"
The book itself's alright, although I'd rather disagree with other reviewers saying that it's "an introduction to Tudor history". It's a NOVEL. It's a historic fiction piece. It can be an introduction to what Mantel THOUGHT of the Tudors, but hardly anything beyond that.
The problem with the audio version is that the book doesn't lend itself that easily to narration - too many dia/polilogues when you've got no idea who says what, which makes it a rather puzzling affair.
I've enjoyed it, though, well, at least most of the times I did, and it was mildly entertaining, although it seems to drag along towards the end. Having a plot might've helped, and Mantel seems to have tried, but not to much success, I'm afraid.
"Fairly dull book"
I guess it's a case of high expectations not being met. Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn and Thomas Cromwell are some great historic characters and their story should be a fascinating, exciting and fun ride. Unfortunately here it becomes dull, over-long and doesn't seem to ever get to the point. Disappointed.
I found the narration irritating and the story tedious - I could not finish it. Sorry, I would not have given it a prize.
Went into this one with an open mind, have been enjoying Tudor history and thought this would be a long...but rewarding listen.
Within about two hours began to find the narrators upper class characterisation (More and others) really grated on me.
Towards the end (I did finish it!) I really began to struggle and honestly felt it petered out.
Learnt a few things but maybe ought to have gone for the shorter version.
This is a fine book, as rich as it is long and complex - rewards any effort required to grasp its complexities and characters. At first I was baffled but it has since become one of my favourite reads.