Another Review at MyShelf.Com

Wolf Hall

by Hilary Mantel


I love to read great historical fiction, with the reign of Henry VIII being one of my favorite subjects, and you can usually count on winners of the Man Booker Award to be great novels.  However,  Wolf Hall did not meet up with my expectations.  Thomas Cromwell was the son of a blacksmith who managed to rise to power at a time when royalty dominated that scene. I had hoped that Mantel would show Thomas Cromwell as a sympathetic and likable character, but he failed to come to life for me in this novel.

Cromwell first makes his appearance as the child of a very abusive father. After escaping and being on his own for a number of years, Thomas eventually rose to power in the court of Henry VIII.  The role that he played in Henry's conflict with the Catholic Church over his marriage to Katherine of Aragon is the main focus of Wolf Hall. Cromwell is portrayed as a forward-thinking man who wanted to reform England. The history is accurate and well researched, but the story didn't  bring forth any new ideas and was confusing in places. There are a number of people with the same names  (Henry, Thomas, Anne, and Mary), and the author often neglected to specify which one she was referring to in the text and in the dialogue.

Mantel did manage to include just about everyone who had any presence in King Henry's court, so there are many characters, and the scope of the story is immense. I did enjoy the debates between Cardinal Wolsey and Cromwell, and Thomas More and Cromwell, and they are imagined in depth. Mantel promises a sequel that will likely span the remainder of Cromwell's life.

The Book

Henry Holt and Co.
October 13, 2009
0805080686 / 978-0805080681
Fiction / Historical / 16th C England
More at
NOTE: Booker Prize winner

The Reviewer

Beverly J. Rowe
Reviewed 2010
NOTE: Reviewer Beverly J. Rowe is's "Babes to Teens" columnist, covering topics related to reading ideas for the youth in the family.
© 2010