National Book Critics Circle, Fiction, 2010
Man Booker Prize, Fiction, 2009
Tudor England. Henry VIII is on the throne, but has no heir. Cardinal Wolsey is charged with securing his divorce. Into this atmosphere of distrust comes Thomas Cromwell - a man as ruthlessly ambitious in his wider politics as he is for himself. His reforming agenda is carried out in the grip of a self-interested parliament and a king who fluctuates between romantic passions and murderous rages.
©2009 Hilary Mantell; (P)2009 WF Howes Ltd
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 love to listen to American books. Following the plot, keeping track of personal developments and intrigues while walking two miles to work
I have tried to listen to this book, but it was too hard for me (non-native) to tell all the persons apart. What I heard was intriguing, but every distraction (I listen while I walk from home to work) made me feeling lost between the characters.
It's not the fault of Simon Slater. He does an extraordinary job. Maybe I will try later, but for now I think I wille have to read the book first, and even then.....
Historical accuracy of the events - facts around Henry's time as king and the events around this.
A great book, beautifully written by an author at the top of her game. What is utterly striking is the way that some of the most dramatic events in history are portrayed through everyday life seemingly without the curse of hindsight. You feel like you are really living the events side by side with Cromwell.
Simon slater must be one of the best narrators anywhere, his staging,voice and delivery are beyond gorgeous.i loved every minute of his performance.
God of small things
hard to differentiate between the persons thoughts and the various characters actually interacting
Please allow me to choose another audio book. Will really appreciate it
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.
"Wolf Hall - a Tour de Force"
Perhaps the most outstanding books ever! Buy it, listen and revel. The plot is complex, the language and characterisation faultless. I was swept along in a tide of the sixteenth century's most celebrated personalities, interwoven with the truths and half truths that history has handed down. An amazing piece of work that richly deserves all the encomiums and awards it has received.
"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.
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