©2009 Hilary Mantell; (P)2009 WF Howes Ltd
This is an extraordinary book written by an extraordinary writer. I read first the print version, but found myself at times lost in the story telling - now who is speaking - now whose story is being told. This audible version brings the characters to life wonderfully and adds a depth to the story. I give the narrator, Simon Slater, five stars also.
This was my first time listening to a novel on my I-Pod, and I was thrilled and totally satisfied. When the novel, which is lengthy, came to a conclusion, I almost found myself crying with disappointment. I can't wait to hear when the sequel to 'Wolf Hall' is published.
Never has a book so nearly given me the impression of looking out of the eyes of another human being. The Thomas Cromwell depicted in this nearly perfect novel is a complex, real man, the product of his upbringing and his society, shaped by tragedies and triumphs as narrow in scope as his brilliantly drawn household and as broad as all Christendom, and himself the shaper of a whole new England - one that would in due course change the world forever.
Slater's narration is also simply magical. He gives each character his or her (and there are many significant hers) own voice, manner and personality. I swore when I learned that the sequel is not narrated by him, because I wanted desperately for this astonishing experience to continue seamlessly for the length of another novel. At least.
The rating I have given is not accustomed hyperbole - in half a dozen reviews this is my first 5/5/5 stars, and richly deserved for the delight I have had over the last few days. Enjoy.
Eclectic mixer of books of my youth and ones I always meant to read, but didn't.
I have literally just finished listening to this wonderful work, part novel, part history, part biography and wholly a revelation. It is difficult to comprehend how the well traveled road of Henry VIII, the Boylens, Thomas More, Wolsey and others could be given a new perspective. Ms Mantel has done just that, and from the point of view of the apparently least sympathetic character, Thomas Cromwell. Of course we all know how it ends, but that is in part the genius of the narrative. Even knowing that, the story presents itself, in the true sense, as novel. I was not tempted to the dictionary with regularity nor to the history books. Because the history is well know, the essentials don't need to be cross-checked (as they often have to with other historical novels). The incidentals don't press you to be checked (because they illuminate the characters in preference to the events).
I particularly like the seeming transition from the third person to the first person that the author has employed with great skill. Through it, and the simple device of capturing the day to day, she conveys what some other historical novelists miss: the inner character of the historical figures. For example, whereas Thomas More's martyrdom seems like the hallmark of his struggle with Henry, as an event for Cromwell it is much more. Cromwell respects and disrespects More in proportion, but he hates that great thinkers must be sacrificed. Yet sacrifice is the artifice of government. That dilemma for Cromwell is palpable from the narrative. For all that, the language is simple throughout, reflecting a Protestant value true to Cromwell's aspiration. It also reflects with wonderful eloquence a simpler time when there was a right and a wrong (although they could change overnight at the monarch's whim); England in the 1530s. I was tempted to keep reading, moving to the second in the trilogy at once. I have resisted only to make that reading even more auspicious.
As to the performance by Simon Slater, I think him the perfect selection to read this work. His voices were attuned to each character, particularly Cromwell and More. The stretch narrative was conveyed at a lovely pace. I am pleased to see he has also read a version of the sequel. It is on my Wish List.
In my opinion, Ms Mantel deserved the Man-Booker Prize for this work and readers of good books deserve to have books of this quality win prestigious awards.
I wanted to love this, but despite many efforts over at least 15 hours I can't even like it. There is absolutely no emotional involvement in any of the characters nor the story. It would be like reading the driest newspaper article summing up the events, which isn't what I would expect of a novel, if it weren't for the laboured construction that made it much more inaccessible and frankly uninteresting.
And I tried. I read the first third on my Kindle, but kept falling asleep (has only ever happened with the ridiculously bad Fifty shades of Grey). Switched to the audio book hoping that a lively narration would bring the characters to life and thus start to matter, in any way, to me. It didn't.
As I read it for a book club I persisted, but a little over half way through I gave up. I just couldn't bring myself to give it another eleven hours of my life. Out of the six serious book nerds in my book club I was the one who got the farthest, by far. One, who is extremely interested in Henry VIII, had finished and thought it dry and uninvolving, but we soon realised she had unwittingly listened to an abridged version of eight hours. That's one third of the original book's length. She said she'd never ever spend over 24 hours of reading time on the full version. The book club even reads quite a bit of award winning lit, many of my favourites are Pulitzer winners for instance, so it's not a question of that.
I even tried reading it just to explore the construction, but that didn't grab my interest either. To me, this is simply a boring book.
Historical accuracy of the events - facts around Henry's time as king and the events around this.
Superb, Brilliant, Worth the Man Booker win
Nothing, it is one of the best historical fictions i have ever come across, Ken Follett came close years ago but this is magic. The characters are alive, every voice is perfect. Even when the narrator draws breath you know which character it is. The historical detail and the tiniest events mentioned are all covered and closed off. I think half the women who read this will fall for Thomas Cromwell.
So many but I found the detail about the rituals of Easter and Thomas Cromwell advising on cooking a real hoot. The tortue scenes are fascinating without being gross and the history is detailed without being boring - and for once - interesting
Yes, I could not stop recommending it to people - after 5 years of book club this one stole the show
Now onto Bring up the Bodies and I am loving it already.
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.
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