England, the 1520s. Henry VIII is on the throne, but has no heir. Cardinal Wolsey is his chief advisor, charged with securing the divorce the pope refuses to grant. Into this atmosphere of distrust and need comes Thomas Cromwell, first as Wolsey′s clerk, and later his successor.
Cromwell is a wholly original man: the son of a brutal blacksmith, a political genius, a briber, a charmer, a bully, a man with a delicate and deadly expertise in manipulating people and events. Ruthless in pursuit of his own interests, he is as ambitious in his wider politics as he is for himself. His reforming agenda is carried out in the grip of a self-interested parliament and a king who fluctuates between romantic passions and murderous rages.
From one of our finest living writers, WOLF HALL is that very rare thing: a truly great English novel, one that explores the intersection of individual psychology and wider politics. With a vast array of characters, and richly overflowing with incident, it peels back history to show us Tudor England as a half-made society, moulding itself with great passion and suffering and courage.
'This is a beautiful and profoundly human book, a dark mirror held up to our own world. And the fact that its conclusion takes place after the curtain has fallen only proves that Hilary Mantel is one of our bravest as well as our most brilliant writers.' Olivia Laing, Observer 'As soon as I opened the book I was gripped. I read it almost non-stop. When I did have to put it down, I was full of regret that the story was over, a regret I still feel. This is a wonderful and intelligently imagined retelling of a familiar tale from an unfamiliar angle.' The Times 'Mantel is a writer who sees the skull beneath the skin, the worm in the bud, the child abuse in the suburbs and the rat in the mattress...Turning her attention to Tudor England, she makes that world at once so concrete you can smell the rain-drenched wool cloaks...This is a splendidly ambitious book...I wait greedily for the sequel, but Wolf Hall is already a feast.' Daily Telegraph 'A compelling and humane investigation of the cost of ambition.' Guardian 'Mantel's ability to pick out vivid scenes from sources and give them life within her fiction is quite exceptional...Vividly alive.' London Review of Books 'A stunning book. It breaks free of what the novel has become nowadays. I can't think of anything since Middlemarch which so convincingly builds a world.' Diana Athill