Author: Hilary Mantel
‘Lock Cromwell in a deep dungeon in the morning,’ says Thomas More, ‘and when you come back that night he’ll be sitting on a plush cushion eating larks’ tongues, and all the gaolers will owe him money.’
It begins with a Blacksmith’s boy, his face bloodied, his body in the Putney mud at the feet of his ruthless father. His choice: to submit or to survive.
From these brutal beginnings emerges a man who would define his age: Thomas Cromwell. It is the 1520’s, Henry VIII rules England with his queen, Katherine of Aragon but he has no heir. His chief advisor Cardinal Wolsey, an astute and adept politician, is charged with the task of freeing Henry from the encumbrance of his marriage but Henry is subject to commands of the pope and Katherine is a devout and loyal catholic.
Into this seething hotbed of tension and scheming steps Cromwell, a self-made man with a formidable legal mind, shrewd and ambitious. Working first as Wolsey’s clerk and later his successor, he emerges as a powerful player in the court’s games and one with a hunger to win. As Cromwell’s star rises under a capricious King with a boundless capacity for cruelty, he becomes a key player in a power-play where to stumble is to fall and every move offers either gracious favour or certain ruin.
The first novel in her Man Booker double award-winning Wolf Hall Trilogy sealed Hilary Mantel’s reputation as one of Britain’s greatest living writers. Bursting with life and colour and peopled by complex, fully-realised characters, it’s impossible to imagine a more convincing and thoroughly immersive historical novel. By turns shocking, moving and grippingly paced, Mantel makes drawing out the complex machinations of the Tudor court seem an effortless, mesmerising dance. As Olivia Laing comments in the Guardian, ‘it is that supple movement between laughter and horror that makes this rich pageant of Tudor life her most humane and bewitching novel’.