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Wolf Hall (Thomas Cromwell Trilogy #1)

3.8 of 5 stars 3.80  ·  rating details  ·  75,335 ratings  ·  9,659 reviews
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 passio ...more
Paperback, 653 pages
Published 2010 by HarperCollins Publishers Ltd (first published October 13th 2009)
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James No. Not unless you are complete Tudor History buff and you bring with you a complete understanding of the era and the characters therein. Otherwise…moreNo. Not unless you are complete Tudor History buff and you bring with you a complete understanding of the era and the characters therein. Otherwise this book is simply hard bloody work.(less)
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8th out of 395 books — 1,141 voters
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Community Reviews

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Have you ever been with a group of people when someone tells a joke and the rest of the group thinks it's hilarious but you just don't get it? Wolf Hall was that way for me. So many people think it's brilliant while I couldn't maintain enough interest to finish it.

I love historical fiction, especially from this time period, so I expected to really like this one. I thought that telling the story of Henry VIII from the viewpoint of Cromwell was an interesting twist and I looked forward to learning
Riku Sayuj

I treat this novel as a qualified failure of an experiment (qualified since I am open to the possibility that the failure was mine) and I sincerely wish that Mantel does not win the Booker this year - I just cannot bring myself to spend anymore time with her lifeless narrator.

More than anything else Wolf Hall seemed to me to be a literary experiment - on how closely a woman can get into a man's mind, and as far as I am concerned, a qualified failure. I could never truly feel that the narration w
Lewis Weinstein
I just started Wolf Hall, and I find the relentless use of "he" to be extremely irritating. In the first several chapters, there are dozens of instances where it is not clear who is speaking. Every once in a while, as if recognizing the problem she has created, Mantel uses the phrase "he, Cromwell." Why not just say Cromwell?

Unless there is some good reason which I can't imagine, this sort of obfuscation is just lazy writing which disrespects the reader. May I re-think that, based on a comment b
Emily  O
May 19, 2011 Emily O rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Emily by: Booker Prize Winner
Do you ever wonder about why people choose to read the books they do? Well, I can tell you, I read Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel because it won the Book Prize For Fiction in 2009. You see, The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt was nominated for the Booker in 2009, but did not win. Curious to see what book could beat one of my favorite books of all time, I looked up Wolf Hall. And what do you know, it's another piece of historical fiction set in England and written by a woman. This could be interesting! ...more
hilary mantel is such a tease. she calls her book wolf hall because she knows i have a crush on jane seymour, and then she just blah blah blahs about thomas cromwell for 500 pages, feeding me only tiny bites of jane. sigh. me and hil have always had a rocky history.i have read four of her books now, and have only really liked one; beyond black. but i keep trying. this one was for class, but i probably would have read it anyway, because this summer i read a nice fat bio of henry VIII and really e ...more
Unfortunately I gave up on this book at page 84. I'm really disappointed that I was unable to get into this book as so many have raved about it. I just found the prose exceptionally dense and confusing. At times I was confused as to who was 'speaking' and couldn't follow it.

Feb 10, 2013 Paul rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: novels
For the first 100 pages I was like a Monkees song, you know the one -

[Cue cute organ/guitar intro]

I thought great historical novels about the 16th century were only true in fairy tales
Meant for someone else but not for me
Mmm, historical novelists were out to get me
That's the way it seemed
Disappointment haunted all my dreams
Then I read Wolf Hall ! Now I'm a believer!
Not a trace of doubt in my mind!
Ooh I'm in love!
Ooh Hilary Mantel I couldn’t leave you if I tried

But then some strange things began
Aug 15, 2014 ~Geektastic~ rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in English history
I have always been fascinated by the history of England under the Tudors, particularly Henry VIII. I chalk this up partly to a morbid fascination, and partly to a genuine desire to understand the circumstances leading up to the Golden Age of Elizabeth I. (Her family’s Whig hatred of Elizabeth I is one of the few things I hold against Jane Austen.) This being said, I have hidden plot spoilers, but I will not be held accountable for the “spoilers” of history.

Well, to understand the circumstances
Feb 18, 2010 Teresa rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Teresa by: Lisa Hill
The thing to remember when starting this book is that 99% percent of the time the pronoun 'he' refers to Cromwell, even at times when the sentence structure makes it seems like 'he' would be someone else. It took me a short while to realize this, but once I did, I was fine. You are in Cromwell's head; you see everything from his perspective. As he reacts to others' reactions of him (many times, he is bemused to see how he is thought of) another layer of characterization is added.

This novel is be
Jennifer (aka EM)
Aug 05, 2012 Jennifer (aka EM) rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jennifer (aka EM) by: Simon
First off, I find the whole notion of the monarchy - any monarchy - absurd. And also, despite being a citizen of a Commonwealth nation with Her Royal Majesty's mug plastered all over my bills and coins, the Union Jack incorporated into my provincial flag, and a mom who dragged me out of bed at 4 a.m. to watch Lady Diana, Princess of Wales walk to her doom - err, groom - I am not, nor have I ever been, a monarchist.

I honestly don't remember what kind of history I was taught in school, but the Roy
Jeffrey Keeten
“Suppose within each book there is another book, and within every letter on every page another volume constantly unfolding; but these volumes take no space on the desk. Suppose knowledge could be reduced to a quintessence, held within a picture, a sign, held within a place which is no place. Suppose the human skull were to become capacious, spaces opening inside it, humming chambers like beehives.”

 photo ThomasCromwell_zpsa093cc12.jpg
Thomas Cromwell by Hans Holbein. Cromwell was a great supporter of Holbein and personal gave him m
Wolf Hall is the kind of book that gets better the more you think about it. Its protagonist is Thomas Cromwell: a villain in A Man for All Seasons but here a man with a family, a career, and a sharp way of thinking. He doesn't want to be a saint; he wants to apply his shrewdness and hard-won experience to make the best of a bad world. His feelings towards his family, as portrayed here, make him sympathetic, even likeable.

The book introduces all the figures familiar to readers of other Tudor stor
A.J. Howard
One of the most interesting things about history is thinking about perspective. Very few people lived their lives with an intention of being known as a villain of history. Yet I think all of us fall into the trap of thinking of the past in moralistic terms sometimes. This is a function of generations of storytelling and cultural indoctrination. There are facts that we don't ever necessarily learn, or at least can remember learning, that we don't pause to consider.

My favorite thing about Wolf Hal
Putting this book onto my history shelf stuck rather in my throat. It is a brilliant story, wonderfully descriptive and emotive. It creates a great panoply of historical figures but falls far short of actually being just to them. By that i mean Mantel quite clearly sets out to unwrite the hagiographical picture catholic tradition has given to Thomas More. She points out, quite rightly, his brutal treatment of 'heretics' and his lack of compassion to those with whom he disagrees and seems even to ...more
First off I'd like to say without the least reservation that Ms Mantel thoroughly deserves all the accolades she has garnered for this novel - and there have been some. She herself describes the process of writing it in terms of a sustained hallucination, as if she were in a film, occupying the same space as the main protagonist, with a ghostly overlap, watching the action unfold through the lens of his eyes. She describes her exhilaration once she got started, and I can well imagine that, it mi ...more
This book has inspired me to create a new bookshelf - one for unfinished books. I've been hearing a lot about this book. It's reaping praise, doing well on bookseller lists, and even won the 2009 Man Booker Prize. When I was at the library the other day, I saw this at the Book Stop and stood there for several minutes leafing through it, debating whether to get it. That should have been a red flag! I'll know next time that if it takes me that long to decide whether to get a book, that it's a sign ...more
Dana Stabenow
Mantel has given a wonderful voice to Thomas Cromwell in this novel of an eyewitness perspective on Henry VIII's split from the Church of Rome. All the usual suspects are present, Katherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Cardinal Wolsey, Thomas More, along with a wonderful supporting cast of fully realized minor characters, whether fictional or historical. I don't know which is more painful to watch, Thomas More being viciously abusive to his wife and daughters over lunch, or Cromwell as a child watchi ...more
Like many others, I thought this book was utterly brilliant. The pleasure of reading it was palpable, a tingling in my fingers. That kind of pleasure put me in mind of another book that provoked it, Yehoshua’s A Journey to the End of the Millenium, but I thought to myself, those books are nothing like each other. Then I realized that in terms of subject matter, they are not so dissimilar after all. Both revolve largely around the search for clarification of religious marriage law, in the service ...more
Anastasia Fitzgerald-Beaumont
The King’s Fixer

I wrote the following brief evaluation of Hilary Mantel’s historical novel Wolf Hall a couple of years ago for another site. It was before I joined GoodReads. I’m now adding it here because I’ve just ordered Bring up the Bodies, the sequel, which I will read and review just as fast as I am able. Keep watching!

When it comes to fiction there are two things I tend to avoid: historical novels and almost anything on the Man-Booker list.

I have read some good historical novels, and I
Thos. Cromwell has usually been presented as the heavy in the middle part of Henry VIII's reign--- the grasping, amoral, bullying parvenu who destroyed Sir Thos. More, the mastermind behind the king's efforts to divorce himself from Katherine of Aragon and marry Anne Boleyn, the man behind the plundering of the monasteries. Leo McKern did a brilliant turn as Cromwell in "A Man for All Seasons" and Donald Pleasance played him in "Henry VIII and His Six Wives". The recent "Tudors" mini-series did ...more
Jan 19, 2013 Sue rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: lovers of historical fiction
Recommended to Sue by: so, so many
Here it is mid January and I already have one of, if not the favorite book of 2013 already. Mantel has brought not just Cromwell to life, she has enlivened an era, a people, a country a king. And done it with prose that is a joy to read.

So much has been written about this book already that my plan is to choose some favorite sections as reflections of Mantel's course in the whole.

"There is a chill in the air; the summer birds have flown,
and black-winged lawyers are gathering for the new term i
Am joining the club of haters of the imprecise 'he' insertions. Never got a clue who is speaking or thinking what. This book is not superior in craft and not superior in story line. Not sure why this got any prices.
And changing time lines has to add value, to do it for the sake of it, is annoying to say the least. And quotation marks as well as commas at the right places seem to be a luxury these days.
Jan 05, 2010 Amalia rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: History fans, those who like to be challenged while reading
I haven't been a big follower of the Tudors, and my knowledge of English history is probably not what it should be in a perfect world. That said, I usually enjoy Booker Prize winners, and the early reviews I read of Wolf Hall implied it might be a tale that I would enjoy. This is a BIG book representative of a time with some big and revolutionary ideas, and I did find myself constantly challenged as I read it. Challenged in a good way, that is.
There are two literary "quirks" about Wolf Hall tha
Where I got the book: my local library.

Oh, by the thrice-beshitten shroud of Lazarus! While you are selecting an approach, my lord, while you are taking a view, your lady daughter is slandered up and down the country, the king's mind is poisoned, and this family's fortune is unmaking before your eyes.

If there was one thing that was going to make me into a Hilary Mantel believer (Mantelieber?) it was writing like this, or this:

"Her sister, however--" He would like to stop him but you can't stop a
Frankly, most of what I know about the Tudors comes from watching Showtime’s The Tudors via my Amazon Prime account. So far, what I’ve learned from the Tudors by watching The Tudors is this: Boobs!!

That said, it is very well likely that the problem with Hillary Mantel’s Wolf Hall is me. After all, it is a hugely popular, elegantly written, Man Booker Prize winning novel. Far be it from me to criticize it.

But I will, since I’m here.

Wolf Hall tells the story of King Henry VIII, his dalliance wit
What to rate this book? That is the question. Whether to give 4 or 5 stars and to suffer the consequences of Anne's outrageous temper.

I am going with 5. Despite that there was the confusing of use of pronouns that everyone else has already mentioned, despite that it seemed to take me forever to read I found myself hanging on to every plot thread, every conversation, every subtelty (that I could pick up on). This was so uniquely written that it almost felt like a different reading experience. Mu
Susan Anderson
This review is over the top, but, then, I confess to being a WOLF HALL junkie, reading the book straight through twice on a kindle, buying the paperback, flipping through the pages, underlining favorite passages, listening to the audio version again and again, finding peace in the rhythm of its prose.

WOLF HALL by Hilary Mantel is a magnificent novel, a fictionalized biography of Thomas Cromwell. Except for early scenes involving Thomas’s youthful break with his family, the novel’s present spans
K.D. Absolutely
Nov 24, 2012 K.D. Absolutely rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: Booker Winner 2011
Reading this book was challenging for me because I am not really interested on English monarchy. Prior to this book, I did not even know anything about the Tudor Dynasty or the War of the Roses. I had to Wiki these and a couple of other topics while reading this book. I am not sure why these topics did not interest me before. I remember our high school teacher touched on these as part of our World History class but knowing about royal people is, I guess, the least interesting topic for high scho ...more
B the BookAddict
Sep 11, 2014 B the BookAddict rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to B the BookAddict by: Jeffrey Keeten

You’ve all heard the name Thomas Cromwell from history books; now read Wolf Hall and meet the man, Thomas Cromwell. Learn about his life, his marriage, his children, his hopes and his dreams; all juxtaposed with his clever juggling of Henry VIII’s varying temperament, wants, demands and the intricacies of Henry’s Great Matter. Katherine is cast off and Anne, wed and crowned. But Henry is a man rarely satisfied; his fight with Pope Clement climaxes and he declares himself head of his own church i
Nandakishore Varma
The English are a people, I’ve found, who are obsessed with kings and kingship, whether positively or negatively (one has only to look at the media hype surrounding the birth of the royal baby and the jokes on twitter about the same). Englishmen love their kings and queens, but are also extremely critical of them – most of which is expressed as underplayed sardonic British humour. This is why, I think, writers keep on dipping into British history and coming up with erudite historical tomes, stea ...more
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Hilary Mantel is the bestselling author of many novels including Wolf Hall, which won the Man Booker Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction. Bring Up the Bodies, Book Two of the Thomas Cromwell Trilogy, was also awarded the Man Booker Prize and the Costa Book Award. She is also the author of A Change of Climate, A Place of Greater Safety, Eight Months on Ghazzah Street, An ...more
More about Hilary Mantel...
Bring Up the Bodies (Thomas Cromwell, #2) A Place of Greater Safety Beyond Black Wolf Hall / Bring Up the Bodies Fludd

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“Some of these things are true and some of them lies. But they are all good stories.” 1788 likes
“It is the absence of facts that frightens people: the gap you open, into which they pour their fears, fantasies, desires.” 1677 likes
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