Hilary Mantel is the two-time winner of the Man Booker Prize for her best-selling novel Wolf Hall and its sequel, Bring Up the Bodies. Her more than fifteen books include the bestsellers The Giant, O'Brien; An Experiment in Love; and Beyond Black, which was shortlisted for the Orange Prize. She has also written a memoir, Giving Up the Ghost. Simon Slater won an AudioFile Earphones Award for his narration of Wolf Hall. His has acted in film (Iron Lady, Hornblower, Entrapment), on stage (Mamma Mia!, Waiting for Godot, Peter Pan, and in TV series (Doctor Who, Inspector Morse, Monarch of the Glen).
Henry VIII's challenge to the church's power with his desire to divorce his queen and marry Anne Boleyn set off a tidal wave of religious, political and societal turmoil that reverberated throughout 16th-century Europe. Mantel boldly attempts to capture the sweeping internecine machinations of the times from the perspective of Thomas Cromwell, the lowborn man who became one of Henry's closest advisers. Cromwell's actual beginnings are historically ambiguous, and Mantel admirably fills in the blanks, portraying Cromwell as an oft-beaten son who fled his father's home, fought for the French, studied law and was fluent in French, Latin and Italian. Mixing fiction with fact, Mantel captures the atmosphere of the times and brings to life the important players: Henry VIII; his wife, Katherine of Aragon; the bewitching Boleyn sisters; and the difficult Thomas More, who opposes the king. Unfortunately, Mantel also includes a distracting abundance of dizzying detail and Henry's all too voluminous political defeats and triumphs, which overshadows the more winning story of Cromwell and his influence on the events that led to the creation of the Church of England. (Oct.) Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.
As Henry VIII's go-to man for his dirty work, Thomas Cromwell (1485-1540) isn't a likely candidate for a sympathetic portrait. He dirtied his hands too often. In the end, Henry dropped him just as he had Cromwell's mentor, Cardinal Wolsey, who counseled the king before him. But as Mantel (Beyond Black) reminds us, Cromwell was a man of many parts, admirable in many respects though disturbing in others. Above all, he got things done and was deeply loyal to his masters, first Wolsey and then the king. Nor was Henry always bloated and egomaniacal: well into his forties, when in good spirits, the king shone brighter than all those around him. Verdict Longlisted for the Booker Prize, this is in all respects a superior work of fiction, peopled with appealing characters living through a period of tense high drama: Henry's abandonment of wife and church to marry Anne Boleyn. It should appeal to many readers, not just history buffs. And Mantel achieves this feat without violating the historical record! There will be few novels this year as good as this one. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 5/1/09; history buffs may also enjoy reading Robert Hutchinson's biography, Thomas Cromwell: The Rise and Fall of Henry VIII's Most Notorious Minister, reviewed on p. 66.-Ed.]-David Keymer, Modesto, CA Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.
"The 2009 Man Booker Prize-winning novel about Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII's fixer and counselor has been brilliantly served by English actor (and composer) Simon Slater. He gives an ironic, Machiavellian edge to his voice as general narrator and renders the myriad characters with exceptional virtuosity. This performance is the best of the year: an absolute triumph, further enhancing an already magnificent novel." --The Washington Post, Top Audio Books of '09"Set aside a full day to savor Simon Slater's delightful reading of the Booker Prize-winning tale of Henry VIII's court, seen through the eyes of his adviser Thomas Cromwell...Slater's narration is nuanced and precise; he breathes feeling and subtle shades of emotion into every exchange of dialogue. His is a heroic undertaking, and he does admirable justice to Mantel's lucid prose and juicy plot." --Publishers Weekly, Starred Review"Slater seems to inhabit Cromwell's very soul, his voice imbued with urbane assurance, dark despair, calculating ambition, and sardonic wit. Each character rings true...Mantel's masterpiece, winner of the Man Booker Prize for Fiction, 2009, entrances with a gripping immediacy that carries listeners to a cliff-hanger ending, leaving fans clamoring for a sequel." --Booklist, Starred Review"Simon Slater's inspired narration of this year's Booker Prize novel, set in the court of Henry VIII, is on every count one of this year's outstanding audiobooks." --AudioFile, Earphones Award Winner"Read by Simon Slater in possibly the best performance of his career, Wolf Hall...never ceases to be gripping...the best audio book of the year." --The Winston-Salem Journal"Simon Slater does a masterful job of capturing Mantel's abundant and diverse characters." --Newsday"Simon Slater's reading is equal to Mantel's masterpiece, his voice shifting to match each speaker, with touches of rough British dialect, German and French accents expertly handled." --BookPage, Audio of the Month"Simon Slater's performance brings Thomas Cromwell out of history and into humanity." --FictionAudiobooks"If you haven't read the most absorbing, beautifully written book of 2009, wait no longer. Better yet, listen to it, for you cannot imagine the 16th century coming to life as it does in the hands of author Hilary Mantel and reader Simon Slater in Wolf Hall." --Newark Star Ledger"Mantel gets the rich pageantry and conniving schemes just right in her richly detailed historical saga, and Slater gets Mantel just right as well. His reading does justice to the novel's language, slipping into character voices as deftly as Cromwell negotiated court politics." --Library Journal"Listeners unfamiliar with British history will find Slater's present-tense narration, as told through Cromwell's perspective, an ideal method of storytelling, turning formidable historical figures into intriguing personalities. Slater seems to inhabit Cromwell's very soul, his voice imbued with urbane assurance, dark despair, calculating ambition, and sardonic wit." --Booklist, Starred Review