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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
  • Performance
  • Story

Booker prize indeed!

What made the experience of listening to Wolf Hall the most enjoyable?

The clarity of the writing and the complexity of the plot.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Wolf Hall?

There are many. From the opening sentence.

Which character – as performed by Simon Slater – was your favorite?

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.

If you could rename Wolf Hall, what would you call it?

Not important.

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Surprise. A Well-Known Story Gets Better

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

History and humanity and romance and a bit of the heroic make it for quite a complete recipe.

What did you like best about this story?

The hero's ability to be loyal and self-serving and idealist without becoming absurd is enthralling.

Which scene was your favorite?

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

Who was the most memorable character of Wolf Hall and why?

Thomas Cromwell of course is the acknowledged hero. Thomas More is rather memorable too, while the other characters do not begin to compare

Any additional comments?

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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  • Clifford
  • Taunton, MA, United States
  • 05-09-12

Requires careful attention

If you could sum up Wolf Hall in three words, what would they be?

Visual, compelling, fascinating

What other book might you compare Wolf Hall to and why?

For some reason this book reminds me of Saturday by Ian McEwan for the way it brings you into the life and thought of one man.

Any additional comments?

I tried listening to this book twice in the past, and had to put it aside because my mind wandered, and when it came back, I couldn't figure out where I was and lost interest. <br/><br/>I'm putting in the extra effort this time due to the soon to be available sequel, Bring Up the Bodies (not sure when it will be available on Audible), which see on Amazon has had good reviews for the audio version. <br/><br/>This time, I'm careful to listen when I can give this my full attention, which means that sometimes I have to switch to something else that's not possible. Giving it a careful listen, I agree with past reviewers who give it five stars. This performance is a little hard to follow, but some of that could be due to the text, and reviewers of the sequel say that Bring Up the Bodies is easier to follow than this book. I'm looking forward to reading that as soon as I am done with Wolf Hall. Highly recommended to anyone who can give this their undivided attention!

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Another Henry VIII book

Really, could I read yet another novel about this time period and these people and enjoy it? Apparently yes. This is more "literary" than the Bolyn Girls books, which made me enjoy it more. I had a bit of trouble with the narration at first, but I think really it was a quirk about the way the book was written that was hard to translate for the spoken word. The story itself is told by Thomas Cromwell, but it is all written in the third person. So it was hard to tell when "he" meant Cromwell or the other person that Cromwell was talking to or about, because you would have expected it to be "I". I had to go back and re-listen to a few sections at the beginning but once I got used to that it didn't bother me. I really enjoyed the book told from the "villian's" perspective, because, of course, real people are more complicated than simply being good or evil.

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  • Kathleen
  • Lebanon, NH, United States
  • 12-19-11

Very atmospheric

What made the experience of listening to Wolf Hall the most enjoyable?

Simon Slater's excellent reading

Who was your favorite character and why?

Thomas Cromwell; a man of wit and wisdom

Which character – as performed by Simon Slater – was your favorite?

The Ambassador

If you could rename Wolf Hall, what would you call it?

Henry VIII's Wise Man

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Best read first

Is there anything you would change about this book?

I found the narrator's portrayal of Thomas Moore distasteful and extreme. I shall have to do more research before I determine if Moore was really as brutal and snide as Mantel alludes. I found it difficult to determine who was speaking at times and the cast of characters was difficult to keep track of. I'd have preferred to read the book prior to listening to the audio so that I'd have brought greater understanding to the listening.

What did you like best about this story?

A fascinating look at a complex and brutal era. The writer makes fine use of language to describe life and portray character's we know by name.

What do you think the narrator could have done better?

Pause more often rather than rush from one character to the next where, though he did a good job with voice differentiation, I found it difficult to track who was speaking. The one character you could never mistake was Moore, and I'd have preferred less of the narrator's interpretive skill.

If this book were a movie would you go see it?

Yes. Most likely.

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creates the world of Henry VIII in new light

narrator ir outstanding; viewpoint re-makes Cromwell into a pragmatist instead of the self-righteous man often seen in other portraits.

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Great Book Made Better by Narrator

I was nervous about listening to Wolf Hall rather than reading it because the book has a huge cast of characters. However, I decided to give it a try because I enjoyed his voice from the sample on Audible.com. Little did I know how lucky I was. Simon Slater made each character he voiced come alive with a vibrancy that I'm not sure I would've gotten just from reading the text. The voice for Thomas More in particular gave such dimension to the character. It was one of those books that I was devastated to finish because I was enjoying it so much. Simon Slater was in no small part responsible for that. I hope Audible.com offers more of his narrations.

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Great Story! Great Narrator!

Where does Wolf Hall rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

This is one of the best books I've ever listened to.

What other book might you compare Wolf Hall to and why?

Good historical fiction, such as books by Robert Harris. The story moves fast, the author understands the period well and helps you understand their motivations.

What does Simon Slater bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Simon Slater's narration is excellent, in this fast moving story with only subtle clues that author is changing scenes or even time periods Mr. Slater's intonation and very distinctive voices for each character helps you follow the storyline.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

The storytelling and many of the characters are very witty. The author helps you understand the complicated motivations of different characters at a time when decisions were being made concerning succession in England and that ultimately ended up in the creation of the Anglican church, separating from the Pope and the Catholic Church. The book and narrator to a great job of making this story interesting and educational.

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  • Joanne
  • United States
  • 09-16-11

On A Second Read

This is not an easy read or listen, however, if you take the time and make the effort (and download the cast of characters) you will not be disappointed. The story is complex, the language demanding. Mantel's style is unique in the way it weaves the story of Cromwell over his lifetime from poverty to wealth and power within the courts and accounting houses of Europe. Fascinating characters, informative asides and humor make this period come to life in a way I've never experienced before. It is no wonder this book won the Mann-Booker prize. Slater has done a great job - not a simple task given the enormous cast of characters.