Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

Fiction Pick by Jean-Louis
wolfhall(Harper Collins, 2009)

If you want a story with history, religion, politics, intrigue, sex, and page-turner appeal, this novel is for you. While we all know about King Henry VIII and his many wives, many of us may not know about the men and women behind the scenes. Hilary Mantel’s novel follows the rise of Thomas Cromwell as he moves from a hard scrabble youth to become the trusted advisor of the most powerful cleric, Cardinal Wolsey, and then on to become the right hand man for the king himself.

As the go-to man in the kingdom, Cromwell gathers stories, favours, and debts as he seeks to exert Henry’s will in the kingdom. Whether it is with French ambassadors, legates from the Pope, the Boleyn clan and the would-be-Queen Anne, or the obstinate Sir Thomas More–Cromwell puts his intellect and personal will to work in the service of his king. And while this is a novel, one cannot but be astonished that all of these characters and  events are drawn straight from the pages of history.

The novel takes you into the rooms (and bedrooms) of state that reshaped Christendom as Henry VIII separated England from the Catholic world. The reverberations of Henry’s decisions, enacted by Thomas Cromwell, shaped England for generations. Do not miss this novel–or Mantel’s companion volume, “Bring Up the Bodies.” These novels take you to the heart of English history and an action packed world. Both of Mantel’s Cromwell novels were chosen to win the Man Booker Award–they don’t get any better.

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