- Audible Audio Edition
- Listening Length: 24 hours and 19 minutes
- Program Type: Audiobook
- Version: Unabridged
- Publisher: Macmillan Audio
- Audible.com Release Date: October 21, 2009
- Whispersync for Voice: Ready
- Language: English
- ASIN: B002UF5KNA
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank:
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Wolf Hall Audiobook – Unabridged
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Top customer reviews
It was a wonderful production. I was inspired enough to read “Tudors” by Peter Ackroyd, the second volume in his History of England.
The plays and television program are based on the novel “Wolf Hall” by Hilary Mantel, the well-known U.K. novelist. It is the first book of a trilogy on Thomas Cromwell, the son of a blacksmith who rose to power in Tudor England, to become second only to Henry VIII himself. Wolf Hall won the Man Booker Prize in 2010. The second book in the trilogy, “Bring Up the Bodies,” won the prize in 2012. The third has not yet been published.
Thomas Cromwell was, at first glance, an unlikely candidate for career promotion. In Mantel’s story, he flees England at little more than 12 to escape a drunken brute of a father. He serves in the French army, eventually finds himself in Italy and connecting to the banking families. He finds his way to Antwerp, where he becomes a merchant. And then he returns to England, becoming part of that rising merchant class and London business class that was helping England break out of its medieval history into more modern times. He becomes a trusted advisor to Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, the Lord Chancellor in Henry VIII’s England. That is the backdrop to “Wolf Hall.”
That is the backdrop, yes, but not the story. The story is the intertwining of two stories powerful enough to stand alone but together the kind of event that changes nations – the royal succession, or Henry VIII’s obsession to produce a male heir to the throne, and the Protestant Reformation. As Cardinal Wolsey eventually fails to convince Pope Clement to annul Henry’s marriage to Katharine of Spain, he finds himself losing his offices, forced to leave London, and living in internal exile. Eventually he is facing arrest and execution – the powerful dukes and the Boleyn family want his head (not to mention his wealth).
The only Wolsey man to stand true to the cardinal in his troubles is Thomas Cromwell – and that is what ultimately commends itself to Henry VIII. Cromwell begins to work for the king, and his successes for Henry begin to propel him upward. He becomes the stage manager to allow Henry to put aside Katherine and marry Anne Boleyn – and it is a production involving church, foreign kings, Parliament, nobles, merchants and businessmen.
Mantel paints each scene with rich, historic detail. The world of the Tudors comes alive. The people who populated that world – from Henry VIII to servants and priests – become three-dimensional people. Cromwell is relentless for the king, but he also has a heart, and tries to find ways to help people escape some of the worst consequences they face. People like Thomas More, Henry’s chancellor after Wolsey whom Mantel paints in a very different way than the saintly Thomas More of the 1966 Oscar-winning movie “A Man for All Seasons.”
“Wolf Hall” is a marvelous novel, so good that one soon forgets he’s reading fiction because this must be exactly the way all that Tudor history happened, right?
The writing, the story, the characterization, the plot -- they're all that good. This is historical fiction at its well-researched best.
Author Hilary Mantel’s magnificent novel did not make me rethink Boleyn’s innocence, but it did make me rethink Cromwell’s guilt. Her gift is to humanize a man who seemed a historical monster. His list of persecutions just in the period this book covers is staggering: isolating former Queen Katherine and separating her from her daughter, Mary; writing Mary out of succession; ruthlessly seizing church assets; laying the ground for (or entrapment of?) Thomas More’s treason which results in his beheading; and taking lethal vengeance against enemies of his former mentor, the Cardinal Wosley.
Mantel brings us to Cromwell’s side by writing in the present tense from Cromwell’s perspective. That immediacy turns the reader into Cromwell’s confidant – page after page, we are with him as he navigates a dynamic but uncertain world – privy to his rationale, humor, and beneficence as he toils ceaselessly on behalf of the King and his realm. Mantel furthers our intimate status by virtually eliminating dialogue tags in this work. Since we are already in the scene, the author wisely allows the conversation to flow unimpeded – little “he said, she said, they said” orients us. This is a narrative that is lived, not read. You must pay close attention to follow this kind of writing. In effect, you must become Thomas Cromwell to Thomas Cromwell: careful, thoughtful, alert, unobtrusive and present at all times.
I read this book twice. It is an astonishing work of historical fiction both for its story and storytelling style.