by Vicky Booth, Program Administrator of CAE Book Groups
This brick of a book comes with a royal family tree and two-page cast of characters, but don’t expect a standard historical blockbuster from Hilary Mantel. Whilst Wolf Hall revisits very thoroughly explored Tudor territory, traditional villain Thomas Cromwell is Mantel’s hero of choice. The son of a blacksmith, Cromwell was Cardinal Wolsey’s right hand man, then chief legal head-kicker for Henry VIII. He survives a brutal childhood to become an international jack of all trades and staunch family man: secular, intelligent and powerfully ambitious. His sleekness is in contrast to a dishevelled, emotionally and spiritually brutal Thomas More. At court, Anne Boleyn calculates her career while a pale Jane Seymour watches from the shadows. No heaving bosoms here. The whole book is about the acquisition and loss of power: of present and future queens, the monarchy and the church.
The true winners are the financial centres of Europe. Mantel’s writing is so good it demands frequent pauses for re-reading. Her bone dry character observations are often very funny, and she handles a mass of historical detail lightly but with absolute conviction. Wolf Hall doesn’t provide any surprise endings, but it is a supremely enjoyable journey.
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From one of our finest living writers, Wolf Hall is that very rare thing: a truly great English novel, one that explores the intersection of individual psychology and wider politics. With a vast array of characters, and richly...
A magisterial new novel that takes us behind the scenes during one of the most formative periods in English history: the reign of Henry VIII.
In the ruthless arena of King Henry VIII's court, one man dares to gamble his life to win the king's favor and ascend to the heights of political power.