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Man Booker Prize, Fiction, 2009
In the ruthless arena of King Henry VIII's court, only one man dares to gamble his life to win the king's favor and ascend to the heights of political powerEngland in the 1520s is a heartbeat from disaster. If the king dies without a male heir, the country could be destroyed by civil war. Henry VIII wants to annul his marriage of twenty years, and marry Anne Boleyn. The pope and most of Europe opposes him. The quest for the king's freedom destroys his adviser, the brilliant Cardinal Wolsey, and leaves a power vacuum. Into this impasse steps Thomas Cromwell. Cromwell is a wholly original man, a charmer and a bully, both idealist and opportunist, astute in reading people and a demon of energy: he is also a consummate politician, hardened by his personal losses, implacable in his ambition. But Henry is volatile: one day tender, one day murderous. Cromwell helps him break the opposition, but what will be the price of his triumph? In inimitable style, Hilary Mantel presents a picture of a half-made society on the cusp of change, where individuals fight or embrace their fate with passion and courage.
With a vast array of characters, overflowing with incident, the novel re-creates an era when the personal and political are separated by a hairbreadth, where success brings unlimited power but a single failure means death.
The program includes a pdf containing a cast of characters and family tree.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Tim on 09-30-11
Divorced, beheaded, died...
I don’t typically review a book until I have completely finished it, but the flurry of fairly negative reviews prompts me to jump in early. This book is a masterpiece, and the performance (it’s not fair to call it a mere narration) is similarly spectacular. I’m a Brit by birth so was brought up on the mystique of Henry and his infamous six wives. The rhyme of the ends of their lives; divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived is beaten into us at a young age. So maybe I’m not tripping over the historical context as much as other readers. I’d really recommend taking a couple of minutes to review a few Wikipedia articles on the king and his times before diving in if this period is a mystery to you. That sounds like work…but it’s worth it. If you can get past the basic Tudor names and events you will greatly enjoy this immersive hypnotic story and its telling. The period was so formative of our modern world, the break from Rome and the reformation all had roots in years covered by this story. The characters are fascinating, well drawn and beautifully performed. Before this story Cromwell and Cranmer were drab outlines, this telling breathes life into them making the tumultuous period live and vibrant. If you enjoyed Game of Thrones on HBO or pretty much any historic fiction you will love this book. Even if you aren’t a fan of Brit history and royal dictators your will find this beautifully told tale will take the head off your shoulders….
103 of 105 people found this review helpful
By Bronwyn Soell on 04-13-11
One of the finest audiobooks I have heard
I had already read and enjoyed Wolf Hall, but wanted to experience it through a narrator as well. I am so glad that I did! This is hands down, one of the best audiobooks in my library. Simon Slater is a marvelous narrator. Although it took me a little while to get used to his 'Cromwell' voice, it made me feel as if I actually was getting to know the man. For those unfamiliar with the story, Cromwell is the protagonist and it shows him as a man who is caught between beliefs and the king and with a huge desire to protect his family, pay back the nobles who brought down his beloved master Cardinal Woolsey and to advance and safeguard his country. In most histories, Cromwell is shown as a scheming, grasping man and Thomas Moore, despite the atrocities he committed in the name of his religious beliefs is almost always shown as a saintly character.
Not so here- Moore is a sanctimonious academic snob who bullies his household. Cardinal Woolsey is a wealthy and satisfied prince of the church before his downfall, but also kind and wise. Simon Slater's voices for ALL of his characters are wonderful, but he outdoes himself with Moore and Woolsey.
I cannot recommend this book highly enough if you are interested in history, religion and politics and learning the many different viewpoints of this time period, as well as a wonderful slice of how life was lived in the 1500s in England. Simon Slater is such an excellent narrator- I will be seeking out his work on other books. His voice, coupled with the excellent writing made me fall just a little in love with ugly Thomas Cromwell!
80 of 82 people found this review helpful