I loved “Wolf Hall”, but I was spooked by it too. The voice is so true: I have my suspicions that Hilary Mantel actually is Thomas Cromwell. Rachel Cooke, Observer
Doing the Tudors to death?
By Roger Childs
The famous English dynasty has been the subject of numerous films, TV series and books.
Henry VIII’s colourful reign has been the major feature of these, and many readers will be familiar with Philippa Gregory’s The Other Boleyn Girl et al. She has written novels on all six of Henry’s wives.
Hilary Mantel takes a different approach, and tells Henry’s story from the perspective of one of England’s greatest politicians and reformers: Thomas Cromwell.
So far, she has produced two novels which will rank amongst the finest of the early 21st century.
Fans eagerly await the third volume in the trilogy.
A story ripe for the telling
In Wolf Hall Mantel tells Cromwell’s incredible story, from his brutal childhood as the son of a Putney brewer and blacksmith, to his unchallenged position as Henry VIII’s chief adviser and fixer.
His is a tale of extraordinary social mobility, as the leading figures in English society and politics at the time were usually born into aristocratic or gentry families.
Thomas Cromwell was a brawler in his youth and fled to Europe to avoid being beaten to death by his father.
On the continent he became a soldier, trader, linguist, banker, contact man and wheeler dealer.
Returning to England, he becomes a lawyer and possesses just the right combination of skills for a king desperate to have a legitimate male heir to leave his crown to.
Quality worthy of a Booker Prize
The panel deciding on the winner of this highly prestigious literary award, don’t always get it right.
However in selecting Wolf Hall for the 2009 Man Booker Prize, their instincts were spot on.
This is literature of the highest quality. Hilary Mantel tells the story from the point of view, observations and experience of Cromwell himself. This is no easy task, however the author pulls it off brilliantly.
Her description, back-grounding and conversations are perfect pitch and the result is a spell-binding and exciting tale of intrigue and deception, loyalty and betrayal, love and lust, and brilliance and brutality in mid 16th century England.
We get Thomas Cromwell, warts and all: devoted family man, loyal friend, vigorous promoter, shrewd negotiator, successful trader and astute reformer; and most important of all – hard working Master Secretary to King Henry VIII.
Mantel helps the reader with a full Cast of the Characters at the start. This is a fascinating story which impels the reader to keep turning the pages, however it is also complicated, and being able to refer back to check on “who was who” is a bonus.
Hanging out for more!
Many of you will have read Wolf Hall and the equally good sequel Bring Up The Bodies.
Nor surprisingly, the latter won Mantel another Booker.
Hilary Mantel has promised a third volume on Master Cromwell.
This is eagerly awaited, however she has a very hard act to follow!