Hilary Mantel brings this era to life in one's mind's eye, with her accurate descriptions and real flesh and blood characters that are solid to the bone. The title, however, has very little to do with the story, Wolf Hall being the home of Jane Seymour's family, and this book is mainly concerned with the life and career of Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII's chief adviser and counsel, and that of the seven years it took to see Queen Catherine deposed, and Anne Boleyn installed as Henry's second bride. It follows the tensions of the religious beliefs and superstitions of the day, the tumult of the turning of England away from the rule of Catholicism and the very conception of the Church of England. Strewn with court gossip and delicate descriptions of allegiances and connivings among the courtiers, and more than the odd grisly execution and plague, and one feels and breathes the atmosphere that Mantel so carefully weaves her reader (listener) into.
Thomas Cromwell won my heart. Hilary constantly refers to Thomas as 'he' and then later in the book, as 'he, Cromwell'. Apparently history did not do Thomas Cromwell any kindnesses, but Hilary's depiction of him is of almost a modern thinking man, incredibly intelligent, stealthy, trustworthy and even compassionate. I had no idea that the modern political system was actually largely influenced by this man, and with that, the creation of the Church under the British Monarch, instead of being ruled by Rome from afar, where the well-being of the nation of England was far from the Roman Pope's concern.
Simon Slater, I want to marry you... Oh to wake up each day and hear your dulcet tones would be as milk and honey for my ears. Simon brings each character alive, how he remembers all the voices he creates for each character and remains true to them right to the end is beyond me. Far from just being entertaining, it helps one to remember each character and their part in the story, as it is a vastly populated story, and one could easily forget who and what each character is/does. Simon read the story to me where I would have easily stopped reading the book, as it is wordy, and the plots are convoluted. I can see why there are many reviews on book sites where readers say they just gave up on this book without finishing it. I would have too had I not had it in Audible version. And I never grew tired of hearing his voice. Simon has a clearly enunciated but relaxed style of speaking, a beautiful well-rounded resonant baritone, a real 'man's voice', and yet, reading the women's voice parts, he did those so well too. And all the foreign accents. The Putney accent made me laugh. I hope the sequel "Bring Up the Bodies" is as good, although it is not narrated by Simon.
Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII and the conniving, ill-tempered, Anne Boleyn. This book made me want to research this period of history so I could better understand the political and religious contexts. The master painter Hans Holbein, the Court painter of the time, so wonderfully captured each one of these artful players from England's history. I now have a better understanding and appreciation of the influence on our current political system after having done this small bit of research. Who knew Thomas Cromwell? No-one, yet he is responsible for so much of the way our modern societal systems work.
I thoroughly recommend this book in Audible format. I enjoyed it immensely. Thank you Hilary for your incredible creation and thank you Simon for making it come to life.
I have not read the print version, as I don't have time to read books these days. I was concerned I would not be able to follow the story or that it would lose something, but I can only say that Juliet Stevenson has added a polish and gleam to this story that I would not have gotten if I'd read it myself. Her Dutch and Philadelphian accents are superb, as are the dulcet tones of her reading voice. I became like an addict to this story, anticipating the next time I could slide the earphones into my head and tune into this amazing and changing landscape of Alma's life story.
Alma Whittaker is the lead character, and we come to identify strongly with her honesty and her self-questioning mind, but also there are other delightful characters: Henry, Alma's sea-faring fortune seeking rum loving grumpy old father, full of English nostalgia and 'stiff-upper', and Hannaker, Alma's indefatigable Dutch nurse-maid come head house keeper, with her blunted Dutch consonants and sage advice to get on with life, that life is suffering (she was an early Buddhist Llama and had no idea) and that no-one escapes pain of some sort in this life. I want my own "Hannaker De Groot" doll, a plump felt character to keep by my bedside with a string activated voice that soothes "now now Child, you will not die of 'dis" and "hush, dry your tears".
The scenes from Tahiti in the moss cave was my favourite, but every setting comes alive in beautiful detail, no matter whether on a creaky sailing ship or sitting on a mossy rock in the sunlight.
I received an uplifting feeling of heartfelt warmth listening to this story, and it made me reflect in some ways, on my own life. Now that's the mark of a powerful story.
Love it. Not to be missed. Treat yourself.
It was spoken by Brene herself at a weekend workshop and I felt as though I was there participating in the crowd.
Brene is a powerful and experienced speaker. She is a university lecturer and has presented at TED talks twice. She is a veteran of speaking and gaining people's attention. I was fully engaged every single moment.
There are so many. For me, Brene's work has been a personal journey of self-development and growth. I loved the part about wanting everything to be perfect and learning not to beat yourself up when it isn't exactly right. Brene says to 'lean into the mess'. It's a lesson I'm learning right now.
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