When 15 year old Thomas Cromwell is felled by his bully father, he runs away from home and England. He later returns home, having turned his life around as a lawyer and works for Cardinal Wolsey. Whilst his personal life is filled with tragedy, Cromwell remains strong-willed, cunning and very persuasive. He is elevated in power by Henry VIII who soon requires Cromwell’s aid in the King’s “Great Matter” – gaining a divorce from Catherine of Aragon.
It took a while for me to settle into this book. I gradually warmed to Thomas Cromwell’s character, not least because he goes through so many hardships. Thomas learns to acquire a thick skin early on in his life. The beginning is quite emotionally draining, but it picks up once Thomas spends time at court.
Sometimes it’s difficult to follow the narrative as Thomas Cromwell is mostly referred to as “he”, so when he speaks it’s “he says”. Cromwell’s voice later switches to “I”, then back to “he” again.
This is a unique take on a familiar story. Mantel achieves a great feat by presenting Cromwell in a different light and making it believable. By stark contrast, the Boleyns and Howards come across badly. Mary Boleyn is a possible exception, although even she is a schemer in this book.
The best part of Wolf Hall is the dialogue.
Wolf Hall illuminates the dark and sinister world of the Tudors. Through the eyes of Thomas Cromwell, Mantel brings to life Henry VIII’s chaotic and deadly court.
My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐