Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel


Wolf Hall 

Author: Hilary Mantel

First Edition: 2009, Fourth Estate

Original language: English


▪       Winner – 2009 Man Booker Prize

▪       Winner – 2009 National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction.

▪       Winner – 2010 Walter Scott Prize for historical fiction

▪       Winner – 2010 The Morning News Tournament of Books.



This is a very LONG sweeping work of historical fiction.  The book tells the story of the rise in power of Thomas Cromwell.  Cromwell was born into poverty and taken in by Cardinal Thomas Wolsely, who was a close advisor to Henry VIII of England.  He soon becomes the Cardinal’s confidant and right-hand, but when Wolsely falls out of favor, Cromwell survives and soon becomes the King’s most trusted aide.

Anne Boleyn, granddaughter of Elizabeth Tilney...

Anne Boleyn, granddaughter of Elizabeth Tilney by her second husband, Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Through his behind-the-scenes position, Cromwell is able to experience the life of King Henry firsthand.  He is there when Henry claims that he was never truly married to Katherine of Aragon, and was also there when he marries Anne Boleyn.  He is also “frienenemies” with Thomas More and several other important figures in the court.

Thomas is able to see these people in their everyday lives and observes their very human flaws.  The book ends with the execution of Thomas More.



“You don’t get by on being original.  You don’t get by on being bright.  You don’t get by on being strong.  You get by on being a subtle crook.”

“We don’t have to invite pain in, he thinks.  It’s waiting for us: sooner rather than later.”

“You nobody from Hell, you whore-spawn, you cluster of evil, you lawyer.”

“When he is admitted she is pacing, her hands clasped, and she looks small and tense, as if someone has knitted her and drawn the stitches too tight.



I felt this book was LONG and a bit too descriptive with little action; at times I felt like it dragged on and on- HOWEVER I was surprised when I finished and wanted to read the sequel.  This was mostly because it feels that the story is just getting started… But that is a lot of reading for a story that is just getting going.

On the other hand, I really liked how she humanized otherwise flat historical figures.  For one thing, I never thought of Anne Boleyn as small, but Mantel describes her small size several times.  The King was also an interesting figure, as was Thomas More.  Jane Seymour also makes a few cameos in the book, and is also surprising in that unlike Anne Boleyn who is all self-confidence, Jane Seymour is quiet and meek- seemingly terrified by Anne.  Her slyness does come out in the small role she plays in this book.