Wolf Hall

By Hilary Mantel,

Book cover of Wolf Hall

Book description

Winner of the Man Booker Prize Shortlisted for the the Orange Prize Shortlisted for the Costa Novel Award

`Dizzyingly, dazzlingly good' Daily Mail

'Our most brilliant English writer' Guardian

England, the 1520s. Henry VIII is on the throne, but has no heir. Cardinal Wolsey is his chief advisor, charged with…

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Why read it?

19 authors picked Wolf Hall as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

Yes, I know this is a novel, but Mantel’s historical research is impeccable and no one has done more to bring to light the shadowy, intrigue-filled court of Henry VIII. Mantel explores the intersection of political power and personal ambition as she traces the career of Thomas Cromwell, a rags-to-riches courtier.

I could almost taste the food, smell the decay, and touch the damp walls of the buildings. She took me deep into the consciousness of the unlikeable yet sympathetic and lonely main character, as he serves his monarch and defeats his enemies.

The drama is gripping.

From Charlotte's list on history books by women.

A longtime diet of tasty historical novels having left me entertained and lazy, my first look at volume one of Hilary Mantel’s trilogy on Thomas Cromwell, a blacksmith’s son who rose to precarious power as King Henry VIII’s ruthless fixer and lost his head for his trouble, was not a case of love at first sight.

It is not a passive read. For me, it took a second trip to Chapter One to discover that Wolf Hall is a work of art. Given the focus it deserves, it brings to vivid life a terrifying world of 16th-century intrigue and proto-totalitarianism,…

From James' list on making history live and breathe.

This is the most compelling historical novel that I have ever read. It won both the Booker Prize and the National Book Critics Circle award. It is the perfect mix of history and soaring political language. The characters jump off the page and are oh-so-very human. Ms. Mantel's knowledge of the period is extraordinary. I stand in awe.

Hilary Mantel was not a historian. She was not a psychologist. She was an insightful and imaginative novelist who wrote in searing psychobiographical style. With Wolf Hall Mantel gave us an understanding of and sympathy for one of history’s most misunderstood and maligned men – Thomas Cromwell – and in the process she transformed historical fiction. When asked if she believed in an afterlife, Mantel answered. “Yes. I can’t imagine how it might work. However, the universe is not limited by what I can imagine.” And yet, I always believed Hilary Mantel’s imagination was limitless. Read Wolf Hall. I…

In Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel recreates the world of Thomas Cromwell in such a personal, tangible way that you feel you are immersed in his time. You can imagine the historical period, the buildings, the clothes, the knife's edge balance of political actions, the manipulation of events, the tragedy of power and illness. Henry VIII becomes much less of a cipher for a king without an heir and more of a complicated, sometimes capricious, personality. The man, Cromwell, who Holbein immortalized in his portrait, lives as a complicated individual: a man driven by ambition and at the same time, a…

From Leigh's list on capturing a moment in history.

This is the first in a trilogy, and the whole series is excellent, but you have to start at the beginning. Wolf Hall is a reading experience unlike any other. Mantel’s masterful command of prose and her willingness to use language in unusual ways completely enmeshes the reader in a dream-like sense of being actually inside the mind of a 16th-century man—Thomas Cromwell, the central figure of the series. It can be a little tricky to read the first time you tackle it, so I recommend the audiobook version, which is superbly narrated.

The ultimate choice for me, even if it is an embellished biographical account of a real person (not my usual preference). It is an exploration of the life and times of a man of “humble birth”, who hasn’t exactly gone down as a glamourous hero and is often regarded as a villain, but who laid many of the foundation stones of modern Britain. It’s written in the third person but through the thoughts and perceptions (but never feelings) of Thomas Cromwell, and its style either fascinates or repels readers. In my case it fascinates, to the point that it was…

This is the first in a trilogy that combines authentic history with riveting fiction. This book is focused on Thomas Cromwell, a henchman for King Henry VIII. Mantel creates a compelling depiction that readers have no choice but to believe. It is impossible not to sympathize with the Cromwell character she creates. 

My first introduction to Mantel’s Wolf Hall was from the PBS series of the same name. I always wonder, when something on TV is very good if it was based on a novel. Well, this certainly was, and it is one of those books (actually book one in a trilogy) that makes other writers jealous. Mantel is not a sci-fi fantasy writer, but she absolutely could be, for she constructs a forgotten world, the 16th century of Henry VIII and his court, so magnificently that one believes to be there. Great prose style and world building emerge only when…

This historical novel is set in the 1500s and follows the rise of Thomas Cromwell in the court of the infamous Henry VIII. Hilary Mantel’s writing is unlike anything else I’ve read. Her prose is somehow rich and full yet feather-light. Incredibly I found myself falling for a character who I’d learnt at school was a calculating, cold, and violent man. With great skill and the merest breath of the supernatural, she plays with language and tense, to make us feel that we are Cromwell – that we have his thoughts. This text takes some getting used to but once…

From Miranda's list on the magic in the ordinary.

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