"Great story, but difficult to follow sometimes…"
I loved the TV adaptation that has just finished but I found the book quite difficult to read at times, although the story and background research were amazing.
My problem is that the author would write dialogue between two characters, but she omits to add "said Stephen" and "said Thomas Cromwell" after someone speaks. So, I'd read it and get lost as to who was saying what and I'd have to go back and count Stephen, Cromwell, Stephen, Cromwell, Stephen etc to work it out.
Then the added complication is that the author has the characters role play. So Thomas Cromwell is speaking but he's pretending to be someone else and he's saying things that aren't his views, as is the other person. That would make it slightly complicated, except that I kept losing the Stephen, Cromwell count so I'd have to stop, and go back to work out who said what etc. etc.
IMO this is definitely not a book to read when tired or lying on a beach. You need to concentrate! (Or be a lot cleverer than me).Read moreLess
"It's worth it!…"
It took me some time to get used to the style of writing which seems disjointed to begin with.
I stayed with it and I'm so glad I did. It gives a totally different spin on the character of Thomas Cromwell and I found that - for the first time - I had some sympathy for him.
I found that I missed the characters once I'd finished the book and look forward to reading Bring Up The BodiesRead moreLess
"Absolutely perfect (except that it ends)…"
Just the most magnificent book I've read since... well, since 'A Place of Greater Safety', Mantel's previous historical blockbuster. So funny and clever and satisfying.
1) Read 'The Winter King' by Thomas Penn first, unless your grasp of the sixteenth century is rather firm. It will save you from being bewildered by the motivation of minor figures.
2) Get it on Kindle if you can. It's massive and heavy and cumbersome.
3) Mantel demands your concentration; this isn't a book to read in 15-minute spurts before you conk out with exhaustion each evening. Take it with you on a holiday when you're going to be able to get a few hours of reading time each day, and dive in.Read moreLess
"The most gorgeous, entrancing tale of Tudor England I've ever…"
The most gorgeous, entrancing tale of Tudor England I've ever read, full of larger than life characters, adventure and intrigue. Utterly spellbinding, I can still remember whole chunks of it almost verbatim. A fantastic, memorable read.Read moreLess
"A brilliant and meticulously-researched account of the rise to power…"
A brilliant and meticulously-researched account of the rise to power of Thomas Cromwell, as he progresses inexorably from being Henry VIII's unofficial 'fixer' , following the death of Cardinal Wolsey, his mentor, to his appointment as the king's Chief Minister, and the architect and engineer of the Dissolution of the Monasteries, orchestrated principally to benefit the royal coffers.
The book (which won the Mann Booker prize in 2009) covers a relatively short, but politically notorious, period of Henry's reign, exhaustively covered of late by other historical novels, and the recent television series, 'The Tudors'. The now-familiar cast of characters appear, including an intelligent, neurotic and spiteful Anne Boleyn, and a still-virile Henry VIII who can switch from a genial, eager-to-please, almost boyish 'merry monarch' to a menacing tyrant in seconds. Anyone who remembers Paul Schofield's sympathetic portrait of Thomas More in the film 'A Man for All Seasons' will be astounded to find him emerging as an intellectually supercilious torturer, who excludes his uneducated but capable wife from family conversation by conducting it in Latin.
The narrative is written in what might be described as 'real-time', following Cromwell on the daily round from his home to the Court, through Tudor London, as he goes about the king's business, negotiating deals, pacifying touchy aristocrats, and increasing in wealth and stature along with his master. Although written in the third person, the impression is of being in the first, as if one is inside, but separate from, Cromwell's mind, travelling with him, having access to his thoughts, feelings and memories. This gives the novel an astoundingly intimate feel, as if one inhabits both the man and his time.
Cromwell himself, traditionally seen as a brutal but effective politician who rose from the lowest echelons of society to the very highest position which a commoner might occupy at Court, is portrayed in a highly sympathetic light, as a protector of heretics (Henry has not yet been excommunicated by the Pope, and followers of the Protestant religion are being imprisoned, tortured and burnt), and of widows and orphans, some of whom he takes into his own household. He also emerges as something of a romantic hero (although hardly in the conventional sense) - another surprise, given contemporary portraits of the man.
When I finished this book, I felt as if I had spent several days feasting on a subtle, complex, intensely satisfying meal, the source of which had now been removed. Apparently Hilary Mantel is currently writing the sequel, covering the remaining years of Cromwell's life at the top. It can't come too soon for me.Read moreLess
2 people found this review helpful.
"I thought that it was the best of what I…"
I thought that it was the best of what I read last year.
A completely non bodice ripping historical novel focusing on the Mandelson-esqe Cromwell.
I really enjoyed the feeling that this was another view of an unloved character from a done to death period of British history.
Mantel brings the characters to life and injects humour and humanity into them.
I was sad when this book finished as I enjoyed it thoroughly and would recommend it highly.Read moreLess
"A brilliant delve into a fascinating life (Thomas Cromwell) -…"
A brilliant delve into a fascinating life (Thomas Cromwell) - surrounding all of the monumental, if somewhat bizarre events around England's break with Rome in the 16th century. As well as conveying all of the historical events (sometimes embellished) of that time, HM imagines the most interesting, quirky, talented, outrageous, unlikely but completely likeable character in her main man and sweeps from the grand-scale to the daily minutiae in a way which is completely gripping, start to finish. Needs time! Go for it.Read moreLess