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Publisher's Summary

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

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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Story

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Lives up to the hype and then some

Zadie Smith called Hilary Mantel the finest novelist working today, and when you read this you'll know why. Her command of the dense and intricate plot is complete, her dialog scintillating and very funny, and Simon Slater turns maybe the greatest performance of an audiobook since Jeremy Irons read "Lolita." You must read this. In my opinion, the story is better than the sequel "Bring up the Bodies", Simon Slater is MUCH, MUCH more talented than the much lauded Simon Vance. It is criminal that Slater was not selected to do the two sequels to this novel.

Also criminal: ALL of Mantel's other fantastic novels are available on audible.co.uk, but only this and the sequel are available in the US. That's excruciating torment for anybody who's come to love this writing. Audible, step up and get "A Place of Greater Safety" ready for download this month, or allow us to join audible.co.uk!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

A Feast of a Historical Novel

The language of this novel is so rich and atmospheric it was wonderful to hear it read aloud. It's about the reign of Henry VIII and his courtship and marriage to Anne Boleyn from the point of view of Thomas Cromwell and is very, very well written and fascinating. There is apparently a sequel to which I am looking forward. The narration was very good, although I must admit I had already read the novel in book form before I got the audiobook. I can see that it would be hard to follow the families without the pages which give the relationships, which were found in the beginning of the printed text. Still, I very much enjoyed this production.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Superb in every particular

This is a stunning book and it's not easy to decide how best to praise it. Mantel has elucidated a world in brilliant detail. The underlying psychological tissue of the story is so compelling, lightly rendered yet tightly woven that I am left with the impression that we can really understand Thomas Cromwell in some meaningful way. If on the other hand Mantel's Cromwell is merely an artful illusion it is of no importance. She has given life to one of the great characters in modern literature, along with a world for him - and for us - to inhabit.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Great historical fiction and great literature

There is a lot of entertaining historical fiction out there, but not all historical fiction is also great literature. This is! There is wonderful detail and grit. I felt as though I was looking at the world of Henry VIII from inside the head and through the eyes of Thomas Cromwell. I really enjoy historical fiction and this is the best account I have ever read of the times of Ann Boleyn and Henry VIII.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

engrossing

I usually skip the portion of art museums dedicated to 16th century English art and furniture, and have never otherwise thought that period of history to be particularly interesting, so I was pleasantly shocked to find myself fully engaged by this mesmerizing story. Mantel's characterization was impeachable. The events that rock the church and state of England, even of Europe, are fascinating. After finishing the book,I felt as though I'd lived through the events myself, and I have a newfound appetite for learning more about the real history behind the book.

One minor complaint- what is up with the ambiguous use of pronouns? It drove me a little nuts and made the book more difficult to follow. Even the narrator became confused, every now and then reading the wrong character's voice.

When unclear, "he" usually referred to Cromwell, so here's one possible explanation: consistently using "he" while referring to Cromwell when other characters are present in a scene emphasizes Cromwell's prominence and centrality to the story. This is kind of like saying "The City" when referring to New York, even if you live in Jersey and Philadelphia is equally close. Does Mantel capitalizes it as "He" in the text? That would support this theory.

Although the narrator was initially off-putting due to his breathy, almost sinister reading, he eventually won me over. I am still not certain if Thomas More deserved as villainous a voice as the reader chose to use.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • HHT
  • Lake Bluff, IL
  • 04-24-10

Very good but hard to follow

The book is well done. It may be better to read it than to listen. Frequently, you are unsure who is speaking.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Melissa
  • Vero Beach, FL, USA
  • 03-22-10

Excellent narration, excellent book

A riveting and sympathetic account of Thomas Cromwell, an historical figure from the time of England's King Henry VIII.

The narrator is excellent, and adds drama to the story. The underlying work is magesterial in its command of the details of life at that time.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars

He said? WHO said?

This was one of the rare times that I really wished for an abridged version. I appreciate the writer's meticulous research and historical detail -- but this book was way, WAY too long.

Although I'm an avid reader of Tudor history, I found myself getting confused...and bored! To be fair, I think the book is probably less confusing in its printed form.

As another reviewer mentioned, Mantel has a bad habit of writing "He said" before every quote, without indicating who is talking. I had to keep rewinding, and found myself yelling, "Who said? WHO said?!!" at my iPod.

On the plus side, this book had some wonderful insights and was beautifully written. But it needed some major editing. I would have enjoyed it more at 1/2 it's length. The narrator, btw, was fantastic. Somehow, I got through it to the end, but I was frankly glad to finish it!

26 of 34 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Did not what it to end.

I enjoyed every word of this book. Although a cliche, the characters emerge alive from Ms Mantel's pen. Recognizing every character is, at times, a little difficult, but detracts very little from the overall flow. Thomas Cromwell is a pivotal character in western history, one of the first from the middle class to acquire great power. A knowledge of Tudor history does help, but Ms Mantel does such a wonderful job of defining each character, especially Thomas Cromwell, and of describing the environment at the time, even a lack of such knowledge does not limit enjoyment. A side benefit is the skewering of Thomas More, a butcher who has hereto fore escaped critical historical examination.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Wolf Hall

I love historical fiction and thought this is one of the best. Some knowledge of history may be helpful, but most people have heard about Henry VIII and Ann Boleyn, and will learn more about Thomas Cromwell (not to be confused with Oliver Cromwell). Simon Slater is a wonderful reader and I look forward to anything else he reads. I was absorbed in this from the beginning.

11 of 14 people found this review helpful