Teresa's Reviews > Wolf Hall

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
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Feb 18, 10

Recommended to Teresa by: Lisa Hill
Read in February, 2010

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 beautifully written with unique descriptions (I love when authors can pull that uniqueness off -- not easy to do!) sprinkled here and there; Cromwell is fascinating (and drawn sympathetically by Mantel) and even surprisingly charming in his interactions with family members and certain others. (Though that's not to say that he doesn't use some of these others either.) And he's funny! Though all of this is done, oh, so, subtly.

It's said that historical fiction is as much about the time during which it was written as it is about the time it's set in. And through Mantel's eyes, we see the similarities of the time periods' political intrigue, as messy and incestuous then as it is now. I thought I was done with Tudor historical fiction (I've read so much of it through the years) but this book is different.

You won't understand the novel's title until later in the book, and I won't explain it here, as I got excited (a rare emotion when reading) seeing the meanings unfold, and I wouldn't want to spoil that for anyone.

I also got very excited as I read this quote: (page 394) "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." I felt as if I had found the 'key' to the whole book.

This is one of those long novels that I loved living with and hated to see end, one of those experiences which causes you not to want to rush off to read something else, because you're still soaking in the one you've just finished.
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Quotes Teresa Liked

Hilary Mantel
“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.”
Hilary Mantel, Wolf Hall


Comments (showing 1-42 of 42) (42 new)

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Teresa I'm guessing passages, like this one, are what elevates this 'Tudor novel' into something more, thus winning it the Booker:

page 97: "There cannot be new things in England. There can be old things freshly presented, or new things that pretend to be old. To be trusted, new men must forge themselves an ancient pedigree ... or enter into the service of ancient families. Don't try to go it alone, or they'll think you're pirates."


Cynthia Thanks for quoting that Teresa. I still haven't started it :(. Have you read her Back to Black? It was good but not great. I was a bit leery of reading more of her after that.


Teresa Cynthia wrote: "Thanks for quoting that Teresa. I still haven't started it :(. Have you read her Back to Black? It was good but not great. I was a bit leery of reading more of her after that."

This is my first Mantel. I had heard so many mixed reviews of her previous work that I was wary of this one too. (Plus I felt I was burned out on 'Tudor' books, which I've read a lot of.) But after seeing Lisa's review on this, I knew I had to see for myself.


Merilee I totally agree with Teresa. I'm on page 520/650 or so and I'm loving every bit of it. I've enjoyed every Mantel I've read.


Teresa Merilee wrote: "I totally agree with Teresa. I'm on page 520/650 or so and I'm loving every bit of it. I've enjoyed every Mantel I've read."

She's writing a sequel to "Wolf Hall" and I'll want to read it as soon as it comes out.



Merilee Me, too, but I imagine it will take her some time.


message 7: by Maria (new)

Maria What a great review -- I can't wait to read it; may bump it up.


Merilee On page 620/652. Don't want it to end, although I have so much else I want to read!


message 9: by Judy (new)

Judy After seeing the series The Devil's Whore, set in the English Civil War period, I'm intrigued by the sound of this one and by your great review, Teresa, but as I've got a long way to go with 'Les Miserables' I must resist starting any other long novels for the time being!


Merilee Finished it! Well worth it, but I do want to begin something else now. Will look for The Devil's Whore, Judy. Have you watched The Tudors?


message 11: by Maria (new)

Maria Glad you loved it too Merilee. Goody, goody. Rubbing my hands together in anticipation - hope I don't rub the skin off before I get to it.


Merilee If you rub your hands together through all 6oo pgs you may lose some skin:-)


message 13: by Maria (new)

Maria It's good I have hand cream.


Merilee yup!


Cynthia Ya'll are like the rocket scientists of the book world!


Merilee Glad you noticed, Cynthia;-)


message 17: by Maria (new)

Maria They are, those little rocket scientists. I, on the other hand, sometimes don't even make my bed. Also we order take-out more and more lately. The food sucks, but we're lazy, and lazy is the best indulgence!


Cynthia Hi Maria,

Why the #*!(%& would people make their beds unless their mommies are coming over??????

Do people really cook??????

hopeless c


Merilee I sometimes make the bed but then my dog unmakes it...I think I still hear my dear departed mommy's voice when I don't...Do love to cook!


message 20: by Barbara (last edited Feb 28, 2010 12:11PM) (new)

Barbara Teresa, before folks get too far from the book, I want to tell you how much I enjoyed your review! I wasn't sure that I wanted to read this novel, but you have conviced me! I know exactly that feeling of being immersed in a wonderful book and not wanting it to end!


Cynthia Merilee wrote: "I sometimes make the bed but then my dog unmakes it...I think I still hear my dear departed mommy's voice when I don't...Do love to cook!"


Merilee keep in mind if you're gonna blame something on the dog you have to actually *have a dog.


message 22: by Lisa (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lisa Judy wrote: "After seeing the series The Devil's Whore, set in the English Civil War period, I'm intrigued by the sound of this one and by your great review, Teresa, but as I've got a long way to go with 'Les M..."
I'm reading this too, isn't it wonderful?!


message 23: by Lisa (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lisa Great review, Teresa!


Merilee Hey, Cynthia, here are dog AND cat on my bed...notice any books in the background??

http://picasaweb.google.com/merilee.o...#


Teresa Lisa wrote: "Great review, Teresa!"

Thank you, all!


message 26: by Lisa (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lisa Merilee wrote: "Hey, Cynthia, here are dog AND cat on my bed...notice any books in the background??

http://picasaweb.google.com/merilee.o...#"


Gorgeous!


Cynthia Merilee wrote: "Hey, Cynthia, here are dog AND cat on my bed...notice any books in the background??

http://picasaweb.google.com/merilee.o...#"


You DO have some critters! But they look so innocent there's no way you can convince me me they'd mess anything up.


Merilee looks can be deceiving;-)


Cynthia Merilee wrote: "looks can be deceiving;-)"

Currie even looks like she has a halo!


Merilee She is thinking: "moi???"


Merilee Why did this suddenly appear 2+ years later??

I did get the sequel last week, and look forward to reading it1


Teresa Merilee wrote: "Why did this suddenly appear 2+ years later??

I did get the sequel last week, and look forward to reading it1"


I think it's because I've gotten quite a few 'likes' on it recently. People must be reading the first (and its reviews) in anticipation of reading the sequel. I'm going to be reading it as soon as the library says I can. ;)


Cynthia Merilee and Teresa please report back after you read 'bring up the bodies'. BTW T I finally found Wolf Hall. Yeah. Right now I'm reading 'the secret keeper' by Sandra Byrd centered around Kateryn Parrs life at court. Of course it's no where near the quality of Mantel though.


message 34: by Kate (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kate Sommer-elliott Great point about the use of "he.". It drove me nuts at the start, so your heads-up to readers is spot-on.


Teresa Kate wrote: "Great point about the use of "he.". It drove me nuts at the start, so your heads-up to readers is spot-on."

Thanks, Kate. GR didn't let me know I had this message, so I'm just seeing it now.


·Karen· I agree with Kate. I'm reading this right now and found your advice most useful. I'm loving it BTW.


·Karen· AND I just underlined that quote you mention in message #1 - I thought that was a wonderful image.


Teresa Glad to be of some use, Karen!

That line about pirates makes the passage special.


Lauren Moore Kate wrote: "Great point about the use of "he.". It drove me nuts at the start, so your heads-up to readers is spot-on."

Yes! Especially useful tip when listening to the audiobook.


Teresa Lauren wrote: "Yes! Especially useful tip when listening to the audiobook."

Glad you found it useful too, Lauren! I can imagine it would be even more useful with audio, as with the text I could easily go back and reread a sentence if I got confused.


Lynda Wolf Hall is like an illuminated text, candles flare brightly and are snuffed or sputter out. Characters are complex as in real life and Mantel's great skill allows the reader to connect empathically with both gods and monsters equally


Teresa Lynda wrote: "Wolf Hall is like an illuminated text, candles flare brightly and are snuffed or sputter out. Characters are complex as in real life and Mantel's great skill allows the reader to connect empathica..."

So true, Lynda!


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