Customer Reviews for

Wolf Hall

Average Rating 3.5
( 505 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(203)

4 Star

(105)

3 Star

(75)

2 Star

(67)

1 Star

(55)

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

43 out of 48 people found this review helpful.

Fascinating. Want more.

I almost put this book aside after the first chapter. It was just too confusing. Then I got my aged mind to accept that "he" always refers to Cromwell and it became a page-turner. It is a fascinating look into the minds of Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII, and various oth...
I almost put this book aside after the first chapter. It was just too confusing. Then I got my aged mind to accept that "he" always refers to Cromwell and it became a page-turner. It is a fascinating look into the minds of Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII, and various other players in the life of Henry VIII, the birth of the Anglican Church, the Protestant reformation, and the Renaissance in general.

If you read carefully, Wolf Hall also gives a lot of neat little tidbits about life in the sixteenth century; for instance, the convent washed their bed linens once a year.

I hope there will be a sequel that takes the life of Cromwell to its inevitable conclusion.

posted by BillR on April 11, 2010

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Most Helpful Critical Review

54 out of 64 people found this review helpful.

Not worth the effort

I agree with the reviewers who say the writing style is difficult. I'll go one further and say its just atrocious. I consider myself a serious reader, but I'm on my second time trying to read it and just can't get into the story. Its difficult to figure out who the vari...
I agree with the reviewers who say the writing style is difficult. I'll go one further and say its just atrocious. I consider myself a serious reader, but I'm on my second time trying to read it and just can't get into the story. Its difficult to figure out who the various 'he's' are. Half the time I can't figure out who is talking during a conversation. If I wasn't aware of the history and plot line, it would just be impossible. I'm sure there are other books that cover this material that are much better written and much more enjoyable to read. If it was a new plot line, it might be worth the effort. I'm glad I checked it out of the library.

posted by Eadie on May 24, 2010

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  • Posted May 24, 2010

    Not worth the effort

    I agree with the reviewers who say the writing style is difficult. I'll go one further and say its just atrocious. I consider myself a serious reader, but I'm on my second time trying to read it and just can't get into the story. Its difficult to figure out who the various 'he's' are. Half the time I can't figure out who is talking during a conversation. If I wasn't aware of the history and plot line, it would just be impossible. I'm sure there are other books that cover this material that are much better written and much more enjoyable to read. If it was a new plot line, it might be worth the effort. I'm glad I checked it out of the library.

    54 out of 64 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 11, 2010

    Fascinating. Want more.

    I almost put this book aside after the first chapter. It was just too confusing. Then I got my aged mind to accept that "he" always refers to Cromwell and it became a page-turner. It is a fascinating look into the minds of Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII, and various other players in the life of Henry VIII, the birth of the Anglican Church, the Protestant reformation, and the Renaissance in general.

    If you read carefully, Wolf Hall also gives a lot of neat little tidbits about life in the sixteenth century; for instance, the convent washed their bed linens once a year.

    I hope there will be a sequel that takes the life of Cromwell to its inevitable conclusion.

    43 out of 48 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 20, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Not what I expected

    From the reviews- especialy those given by B&N- I thought I would give this book a try. I could not finish the book. I could not get past 75 pages. It started out great but in the second chapter the writers style of writing became too disjointed....so much to the point that it was difficult to tell who was dooing the talking, telling and thinking. There are too many good books out there that you don't have to work so hard at to read and enjoy. I would suggest skipping this one.

    32 out of 39 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 16, 2010

    WOLF HALL, literally.

    When I began reading this book I was worried some of the other reviews would be true, having already purchased the book, but fourtunately, they could not have been more wrong. They have issues with the writing style which could not be better, it is what makes the book so great and even thrilling, making of you a witness in every coversation. I do not see how a so-called "serious reader" would find it difficult; as an english-as-a-second-language-guy trust me, it is not. This is a "quid pro quo" kind of book, the more you give of your attention the more you recieve.
    For those who question the timeline of the story and the ending I would say it is because it is not a history lesson what the autor is trying to give, but a lesson on human nature, portrayed through Cromwell, about how one can rise to any social status by his own merits, but not without tearing down others´ ambition in the process, for as Mantel says "man is wolf to man", thus giving a double meaning to what the title, Wolf Hall, stands for. The content, not just words, words, but words to digest.

    30 out of 34 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 8, 2012

    Superb Writing

    I'm glad I didn't let the negative customer reviews dissuade me from reading this, it was a treat. The best historical fiction I've read in years, & I'm a fan of the genre. The idiosyncratic, wry, witty ( and sometimes unsentimental) look at the Tudor period through the sharp eyes of Thomas Cromwell might not go over big with the Philippa Gregory or 'historical' romance novel crowd. If you want pure soap opera that plays fast and loose with facts, watch 'The Tudors' (Showtime channel series). I think, in this case, that what was closer to the truth has been rendered infinitely more interesting in this novel. I look forward to reading the new sequel, which deals with Ann Boleyn's downfall.

    23 out of 25 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 9, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Dull

    The book is full of historical information, and no doubt the author has done a good job on that. But, at least in my opinion, one of the reasons for writing historical fiction rather than a straight up history, is that the author can liven things up a bit and provide a human interest point of view. This book has none of that. It might as well be the straight up history as the writing is tedious to follow and the storyline quite dull. Readers who have a knowledge of Cromwell and an interest in learning more will be satisfied, but the general reader will be asleep long before the 500+ pages are finished.

    23 out of 33 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 18, 2010

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    Very Boring

    The author has a tedious use of the pronoun, "he". Unfortunately, she uses it extensively to the point that it is impossible to know who is talking or what is going on. There are no descriptions of life in the time period. The book is a conglomeration of dialogue after dialogue with no clear understanding of what is happening, who is doing it or saying it or why. The book is very well researched but it is maddening to attempt to keep up with the discourse with no minimal prompts available to know who is talking.

    21 out of 30 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 22, 2010

    Superb writing!

    A fabulous telling of a story we all know but with such depth and nuance! It is not an easy read for those looking for a typical "costume drama" type of historical novel...you do actually have to be alert and willing to follow a number of characters, many with similar names. Oh, but the writing is priceless and beautiful! The in-depth study of the character of Thomas Cromwell is wonderfully rendered; Ms. Mantel paints him with such wit you have to love him!

    Those who complained that "you can't tell who is talking" just weren't paying attention. The "he says" is always Cromwell. Once you get that, it is perfectly clear. I loved this book, hated for it to end and now can't wait to read others by Hilary Mantel.

    16 out of 20 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 18, 2010

    terrible

    do not waste your time or money. don't even get this at the library. its horrible. i want my money back.

    i can't tell if there is a plot. so far it seems like just random thoughts that sometimes turn into an actual conversation. its like the writer has a head injury and isn't making a whole lot of sense. is this some sort of new or creative writing style, if so i hate it. i can't tell who is saying what, is it the narrator? is there a narrator? and why so many paragraphs full of info that i have no idea how or why it relates to the rest of the book.

    16 out of 27 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2010

    BOOKER PRIZE WINNING HISTORICAL NOVEL

    A PERFECT HISTORICAL NOVEL. VERY INFORMATIVE WITH A UNIQUE VIEW OF THE MAIN CHARACTER AND THE TIME PERIOD IN WHICH HE LIVED. IMPECCABLY RESEARCHED AND WRITTEN WITH WRY BRITISH HUMOR. I LOOK FORWARD TO THE SEQUEL WITH GREAT ANTICIPATION.

    14 out of 19 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 14, 2009

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    Best Read of 2009 Hands Down

    No, the story isn't new. But the characterization of Cromwell is stunning. There's wit, sarcasm,intelligence, tension, romance and a bit of everything plus it's all set during Henry's chaotic Boleyn affair... i was sad to see it end. Frankly, I wanted to spend more time with the character. As a literary escape on it's own and part of the genre. Last year i totally (oh god was it the year before?) chose Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrel and if it's been longer than year it's been that long between favorites - this is on the same level.

    9 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 5, 2009

    Boring with a capital "B"

    I love almost every book that I read... however this was the most boring book I've picked up in years: Little or no plot, with dull characters. Don't waste your money on this one.
    If you want to read about the time of Henry the VIII, go to Phillipa Gregory's books.

    8 out of 19 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 17, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Rich in everything a good hsitorical novel should have!

    I have a passion for the historical novels & this is one of the best I have read. Mantel brings the rich and culture altering events of Henry the VIII's rule well into the 21s century - making the characters that defined that area palpable and real without any mundane melodrama. There are no heroes in this story - but flawed people looking to consolidate power however brutally. This novel echoes long after the last page is turned. A must-read for history buffs and those interested in the civilization of the middle ages. Enjoy!

    6 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 22, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Historical fiction gone bad

    What could have been a fascinating look at Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII and a critical time in English history became unbearable. There are few books that I give up on but, after reading 2/3 of it, I just couldn't finish. The characters were a jumble that I didn't care about and couldn't keep straight, the plot seemed to wander and weave every which way. On top of that the author's style of dialog with no quotations marks helped to make it a book unnecessarily difficult read. Maybe it is just my lack of knowledge of these historical events that was the problem but usually I can make sense of a historical piece and come away having learned something. That was not the case here. I know it has gotten excellent reviews and won The Mann Booker award but I would recommend this only to someone who is a real history buff and can keep all the myriad characters straight.

    5 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 13, 2010

    Mantel's novel takes us inside the mind of Thomas Cromwell, advisor of Henry VII, but the editing makes a fascinating trip needlessly tiring.

    The decision to make it difficult to determine whose thoughts and statements we are reading at any moment was unwise. I assume that Hilary Mantel chose this ill-advised method of writing--not using quotation marks in conventional ways, not clearly attributing statements in situations where more than two people are inter-acting--but her editors should have convinced her that obscurity harmed her effort to make Thomas Cromwell a sympathetic character. Cromwell has suffered from the historians' who have made Ann Boleyn in a romantic figure; Mantel's essentially sympathetic view of him and her characterization of Ann as a coldly calculating power-seeker, is a plausible corrective. Unfortunately, reading this novel is needlessly difficult. The complex tapestry of Tudor England, embroiled in political questions complicated by religious revolution (this is the period of Luther's break with Rome as well as Henry's effort to assure a peaceful succession by securing an annulment from Katherine, the queen he married after her first husband, Henry's older brother died. Katherine was older than Henry, and she bore him a daughter, Mary, but no son; Henry is himself 43 at the time he begins to seek a way to replace Katherine with a fertile younger wife who can bear him a son. The senior archbishop of England, Cardinal Wolsey, is a consummate politician, and he seeks a way to secure support from continental monarchs the Emperor of Spain, and the king of France. For reasons of their own (which Mantel does not go into) it does not suit them to be persuaded to support Henry's petition. Thomas Cromwell is a confidant of Wolsey, a self-made man in an age obsessed with nobility, a man presented as the child of an abusive father who threatens nobles such as Thomas Howard, the Duke of Suffolk, just by being an upstart commoner.

    This book provides a visceral introduction to a world whose views of society are based on a presumption that all men are NOT created equal. In a sense, Cromwell, the central character of this novel, embodies the view that comes to replace it in the following century and half and is given voice by Jefferson in the American Declaration of Independence. As an imaginative examination of the collision between these two views, one can only praise Mantel's book. I only wish she had been content with that very difficult task, and had not belabored the reader by an unfortunate stylistic choice that made a hard job harder than it had to be for a thoughtful reader.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 29, 2012

    Not engaging

    I am delighted to find that there are.many others who also abandoned this book before reaching page 100. It lacks narrative tension, without which fiction is useless. People will no doubt differ over the writing style. I found it ponderois. I have rarely read a book so lacking in humor and irony. The historical research is no doubt first class, but I want a story too. This is about a man who is a brilliant and ruthless political operator in a ruthness millieu. There is no real mystery about Cromwell to be explored.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 27, 2012

    I've never seen anything like it in such a highly rated book. I

    I've never seen anything like it in such a highly rated book. I'm not sure why it won the awards it did. The flow of the book was erratic at best. So many sentences with no subject or verb, and run on sentences that made no sense.

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 8, 2012

    At times dense & difficult. I am generally a devourer of bo

    At times dense & difficult. I am generally a devourer of books & this one seems to be taking forever to get through. Wanted to love it, don't think I'll tackle the next.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 28, 2010

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    Expectations not met

    Although this was a pretty thorough book about a few years of the Tudor period, I was dissappointed in the work. The first half of the book grabbed me as it was a interesting to learn more about Thomas Cromwell prior to being involved in King Henry's court. However, I expected more from the book after the intitial ground work and found myself dissappointed with the rest of the book. I have read several other historical fiction works about the Tudor period including Anne, Elizabeth and Mary and that is why I picked this one up. My expectations were high and although I am sure a lot of research went into the work, after the first 1/3 of the book, I found nothing new or interesting that I had not learned in other works. I also was surprised that it ended when it did. I found the last 1/3 of the book rather tedious to get through, but I try to always finish what I started so I struggled through it, but it was not as good as I expected.

    4 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 19, 2012

    Thid book This book ducks This book i This book sucks; not sure about all the great revieed This book sucks

    The publisher must have written the glowing reviews. I love historicsl fiction, but this was a real waste of time and money.

    3 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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