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Wolf Hall (Thomas Cromwell Trilogy #1)

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  128,766 Ratings  ·  13,344 Reviews
England 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. Into this impasse steps Thomas Cromwell: a wholly original man, a charmer and a bully, both idealist and opportunist, astu ...more
Paperback, 653 pages
Published 2010 by HarperCollins Publishers Ltd (first published April 30th 2009)
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Vidhi Depends on what kind of reader you are. This book doesn't start easy. And if one is unfamiliar with the English history like I was, it can be quite…moreDepends on what kind of reader you are. This book doesn't start easy. And if one is unfamiliar with the English history like I was, it can be quite confusing. There are too many Thomases and like. But having said that, once you are in the narrative, it is a great read. Like every good book, it will give you withdrawal symptoms after finishing it. But it would not be very much about the characters. It would be more about the environment. I felt as if I am suddenly cut off from the English court and missing all the gossips, all the wheelings and dealings that I had become part of. So yeah, I found it a rewarding read.(less)
Stephen Yes, I'm giving up. As much as I love Tudor history and have read a lot of historical fiction, this book requires strict attention to detail or you…moreYes, I'm giving up. As much as I love Tudor history and have read a lot of historical fiction, this book requires strict attention to detail or you keep going backwards to try and understand what is going and who is saying what.(less)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Wendy
Jan 22, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: unfinished
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
...more
Lewis Weinstein
Jan 07, 2012 rated it did not like it
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
...more
Teresa
Feb 02, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  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
...more
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.”

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Thomas Cromwell by Hans Holbein. Cromwell was a great supporter of Holbein and personal gave him m
...more
Paul Bryant
Jun 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
...more
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
...more
Will Byrnes
The fate of peoples is made like this, two men in small rooms. Forget the coronations, the conclaves of cardinals, the pomp and processions. This is how the world changes: a counter pushed across a table, a pen stroke that alters the force of a phrase, a woman’s sigh as she passes and leaves on the air a trail of orange flower or rose water; her hand pulling close the bed curtain, the discrete sigh of flesh against flesh.
Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown…but really, crown-wearers seem
...more
Emily  O
Dec 14, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  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
Ana
Jan 21, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: why, hell-to-the-no
BR with Hayat

2.5 Stars


These Tudor memes are amazing. They're worthy of losing your head over.

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Dear oh dear where do I begin... I've always been fascinated by the Tudor Dynasty, especially Queen Elizabeth I. And since I'm obsessed with Anne Boleyn, I thought this would be a perfect book for me. It's well-written... but sadly far from perfect.

Reading this book was no easy task. Wolf Hall isn't terribly difficult to understand, as some claim. The problem lies with the main character. I have n
...more
karen
Mar 22, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: it-is-for-class
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
Bookdragon Sean
Hilary Mantel sure knows how to write; her prose is eloquent and sophisticated. Stylistically speaking, she is very distinctive. Very few writers wield grammar the way she does; she uses every means of punctuation at her disposal to achieve real effectual writing. At some points her writing is simply beautiful, but there are also some real difficulties associated with it.

This is a hard novel to read. It chronicles the life of Thomas Cromwell, and the narrative is focalised through him. However,
...more
Kaylene
May 19, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cannot-finish
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.

Oh well.....next!
 ~Geektastic~
Jun 02, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  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
...more
Jennifer (aka EM)
Aug 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  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
...more
Annet
‘Henry stirs into life. ‘Do I retain you for what is easy? Jesus pity my simplicity. I have promoted you to a place in this kingdom that no one, no one of your breeding has ever held in the whole of the history of this realm.’ He drops his voice. ‘Do you think it is for your personal beauty? The charm of your presence? I keep you, Master Cromwell, because you are as cunning as a bag of serpents…..’’

'Someone asks him if he wants to confess.
‘Must I’?
‘Yes, sir, or you will be thought a sectary.’
Bu
...more
Adina
Oct 02, 2014 rated it liked it
You don’t know much about Henry VIII except that he was an English king, had a lot of wives and changed the official Church of England so he could bang another woman? You heard of Thomas Cromwell but you don’t know exactly why he is so important? You want to learn more about this period in England’s history and you think Wolf Hall is the place to start? Well, let me tell you, IT ISN’T. You already know everything there is to know about the life and deeds of the 2 men and are interested in a beau ...more
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
...more
Bionic Jean
Everyone knows about the Tudors. Even people not particularly interested in history know the bare bones of the story, and people world-wide all seem to have heard about Henry VIII. I suspect it is one of the most popular periods to study in English history with its cast of colourful characters, intrigues, passions, extremes, extravagances, important political and religious changes and mind-blowingly violent events. Why then was Wolf Hall such a slog to get through?

For a start Hilary Mantel write
...more
Emily
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
...more
Diane
I am a reader who thinks British history is fascinating, and I've long had a soft spot for the Tudors. That wacky King Henry VIII and his six wives! And that wacky Protestant Reformation that changed the world! What an amazing time!

Sure, this period has been much-written about, but I love the fresh approach that Hilary Mantel takes in her Wolf Hall novels, which is to tell the story of Anne Boleyn's rise and fall from the perspective of Thomas Cromwell, a low-born lawyer who eventually became a
...more
Steve
Jun 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
15 January, 2008

Dear Ms. Mantel:

Thank you for submitting your manuscript entitled Wolf Hall. After careful consideration, we have chosen not to publish your work in its current form. However, we believe that with certain modifications, our mutual interests may be well-served. The senior editor in our Business and Management Division, Lee Gultender, has what we hope is an intriguing idea for you to entertain. He proposes that you use the same main characters from your present book as exemplars in
...more
Glenn Sumi
Dec 12, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: booker-winners
I don’t have much to add to the excellent reviews on here about the Booker Prize-winning first volume in Hilary Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell trilogy.

Indeed, I consulted several of those reviews while reading this lengthy tome, especially at the beginning, just to help orient myself and see if I was the only one having a tough time with the names, characters and historical allusions. I wasn’t! Mantel certainly doesn’t "write down"; we have to keep up with her, even if it requires consulting the pages
...more
·Karen·
Jun 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Matt
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
...more
Mark
Dec 31, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, audiobooks
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
Heidi The Hippie Reader
Apr 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Wolf Hall is a historical fiction reader's feast. Henry the VIII's story, though it has been told, is re-examined through the eyes of Thomas Cromwell, one of his counselors. Who knew that a professional paper-pusher and merchant could be so fascinating?

Cromwell's history made it unlikely that he would ever climb to such heights among the powerful. Born the son of an alcoholic blacksmith, Cromwell's cleverness is his only advantage.

Then, through a relative, Cromwell is taken into Cardinal Wolsey'
...more
Lisa
Feb 23, 2010 rated it did not like it
Shelves: unfinished
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
Matthew Quann
Sometimes I feel like I'm reading books for cocktail parties that are never going to happen. I'll pick a book off the shelf as conversational ammunition for an exchange featuring a tally of "important" works read. Of course, this exchange never happens and I find myself subjected to the mild tedium of a book that just doesn't work for me. Wolf Hall is the exception in that real, live, homo sapiens pointed at it on my bookshelf to ask if I had read it.

But, you know, Wolf Hall is the type of book
...more
Darwin8u
Nov 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012, aere-perennius
“It is the absence of facts that frightens people: the gap you open, into which they pour their fears, fantasies, desires.”
― Hilary Mantel, Wolf Hall

description

Brilliant. This is one of those rare novels that hits me on almost every level. The writing is crisp, deep and unsettling all at the same time. The narrative leads without pushing. Its prose sings but never strays into cliche. Every thread and sinew of this novel seems destined to weave into the body of this story's tapestry. Mantel is able to inv
...more
Simon
Apr 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
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3,098 followers
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

Other books in the series

Thomas Cromwell Trilogy (3 books)
  • Bring Up the Bodies
  • The Mirror and the Light (Thomas Cromwell, #3)

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“It is the absence of facts that frightens people: the gap you open, into which they pour their fears, fantasies, desires.” 2202 likes
“Some of these things are true and some of them lies. But they are all good stories.” 1981 likes
More quotes…