National Book Critics Circle, Fiction, 2010
Man Booker Prize, Fiction, 2009
In the ruthless arena of King Henry VIII's court, only one man dares to gamble his life to win the king's favor and ascend to the heights of political powerEngland in the 1520s is a heartbeat from disaster. If the king dies without a male heir, the country could be destroyed by civil war. Henry VIII wants to annul his marriage of twenty years, and marry Anne Boleyn. The pope and most of Europe opposes him. The quest for the king's freedom destroys his adviser, the brilliant Cardinal Wolsey, and leaves a power vacuum. Into this impasse steps Thomas Cromwell. Cromwell is a wholly original man, a charmer and a bully, both idealist and opportunist, astute in reading people and a demon of energy: he is also a consummate politician, hardened by his personal losses, implacable in his ambition. But Henry is volatile: one day tender, one day murderous. Cromwell helps him break the opposition, but what will be the price of his triumph? In inimitable style, Hilary Mantel presents a picture of a half-made society on the cusp of change, where individuals fight or embrace their fate with passion and courage.
With a vast array of characters, overflowing with incident, the novel re-creates an era when the personal and political are separated by a hairbreadth, where success brings unlimited power but a single failure means death.
The program includes a pdf containing a cast of characters and family tree.
©2009 Hilary Mantel; (P)2009 Macmillan Audio
love to read, love to listen
I loved how the characters were developed -- rich portraits of Thomas Cromwell, Cardinal Woolsey, and Thomas More in particular. Really interesting (and unflattering) take on the Boleyns.
I liked a lot of the home scenes with Cromwell and his family. He had great affection for his family and wards, and treated them all very well. Somewhat different from his public face.
Also, I'd want to revisit the scenes with Cromwell and More again. They had a complicated relationship, and their interactions were fascinating. There was some affection, yet they were strongly opposed to one another.
Not really, just thoroughly enjoyed it.
There could not possibly be a more boring perspective from which to tell the dynamic happenings of Henry VIII's court than that of Thomas Cromwell. In this telling, Cromwell is just a work-a-day secretary/ attorney to Henry. So it's like hearing about say, JFK's presidency from his executive assisant. It is interesting but I cannot fathom the people who say they LOVE this book. I love this time period so I stayed committed despite putting it down and getting lost innumerable times.
He is pretty good.
It was a new perspective on a much told tale.
I found myself quite interested in the main character and the times he lived in.
The main character was a complex person with an interesting past, gradually revealed. The class differences, financial dealings, the dangers of being on the wrong side of the officially accepted belief structure - they all contributed to an story that kept my interest.
I was happy to be able to listen to Bring Up the Bodies right after finishing Wolf Hall. I would like to listen to more books by Hilary Mantel on this subject.
Tell us about yourself!
I had tried to read the book in written form and found it daunting. When I listened to the audible sample it was a revelation. So much more easy to understand.
The reader made every voice distinct, like an actor he made each character unique. As the protagonist, Thomas Cromwell is the star of the show.
I loved the voice of Cardinal Woolsey. As Simon Slater rendered him, I could perfectly visualize a fat old man in his red robes.
At over 21 hours long it would have to be a marathon of listening to hear in in one sitting. Great value for one credit.
Loved this book: excellent writing, excellent imagining of an oft told tale. And what a fantastic narrator. Already bought the sequel : Bring Up the Bodies
Maybe it's because I already know the story of Henry the VIII and Anne Boleyn SO well, or maybe the story just got dragged out in tedious detail, but I was sorely disappointed. I had read all the good review and heard from many friends how great this series is but the reality was really quite dry. I had planned on reading the next book but have since crossed that off my wish list. The reader had a pleasant voice and good accent, but having to read a boring book just didn't help.
Slater gets inside the heads of the characters, moves the story ahead with his narration, anticipating where it will go, gives you a deft psychological portrait of each.
Couldn't and wouldn't. It's like fine wine, savoring it sip by sip
Frankly, this is my first disappointing purchase on audible. I have not been able to make is through more than 4 hours of this book. I am particularly surprised at the positive reviews of the narrator, whom I find very difficult to follow. He seems to confuse the voices on occasion. I have noticed that the text itself does a poor job of clarifying who is speaking, and differentiating between spoken words and silent thoughts. This may be an excellent listen for someone who has already read the book, and can fill in the blanks where the narration and text flow fails.
Given the positive reviews by other audible listeners, I had high hopes. Perhaps I will try to come back to it at another time. I really wish I had spent my credit somewhere else.
Yes, Wolf Hall is historical fiction; it is also extremely witty. Sadly, the narrator, Simon Slater, is such a poor reader that he misses the humor entirely. He marches through the narrative with little understanding, and the characters sound very much the same. Cromwell he gives a kind of ill-natured growl, which is very much at odds with how is character is drawn and with the clever remarks he exchanges. And the rest of the characters Slater gives a priggish simper, including Cardinal Wolsey. I actually stopped listening and picked up the book instead. Would be great if someone capable decided to take on the book, Steve Hodson would be ideal. Derrick Jacobi also comes to mind, of course, but he almost always records abridged versions.
The clarity of the writing and the complexity of the plot.
There are many. From the opening sentence.
Not one character - all the characters. So rarely does each character in a book remain compelling but this book accomplished that for me. Cromwell, Henry and Anne Boleyn but so does the minor character of Henry's daughter, Mary and the Boleyn relatives who step in and out of the spotlight. They all have their time in the sun and there are no wasted words.
History and humanity and romance and a bit of the heroic make it for quite a complete recipe.
The hero's ability to be loyal and self-serving and idealist without becoming absurd is enthralling.
Cromwell and More in the Tower, discussing the survival of the self and the agony of physical death, make you wish to have been there--well, far removed from the agonies of course, but into the discussion
Thomas Cromwell of course is the acknowledged hero. Thomas More is rather memorable too, while the other characters do not begin to compare
The narrator was perfect. Usually I read history books, where the narrator is less important (although the wrong one can be a pain). Compared to the few novels I read, Mr. Slater is a star.
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