Wolf Hall

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Wolf Hall
Wolf Hall cover.jpg
Author Hilary Mantel
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre Historical Fiction
Publisher Fourth Estate (UK)
Publication date
30 April 2009
Media type Print (hardback)
Pages 672
ISBN 0-00-723018-4
823/.914 22
LC Class PR6063.A438 W65 2009
Followed by Bring Up the Bodies

Wolf Hall (2009) is a multi-award winning historical novel by English author Hilary Mantel, published by Fourth Estate, named after the Seymour family seat of Wolfhall or Wulfhall in Wiltshire. Set in the period from 1500 to 1535, Wolf Hall is a fictionalised biography documenting the rapid rise to power of Thomas Cromwell in the court of Henry VIII through to the death of Sir Thomas More. The novel won both the Man Booker Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award.[1][2] In 2012, The Observer named it as one of "The 10 best historical novels".[3]

The book is the first in a planned trilogy; the sequel Bring Up the Bodies was published in 2012.[4]

Historical background[edit]

Born to a working-class family of no position or name, Cromwell rose to become the right-hand man of Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, adviser to the King. He survived Wolsey's fall from grace to eventually take his place as the most powerful of Henry's ministers. In that role, he oversaw Henry's divorce from Catherine of Aragon and subsequent marriage to Anne Boleyn, the English church's break with Rome and the dissolution of the monasteries.

Historical and literary accounts in the following centuries have not been kind to Cromwell; in Robert Bolt's well-known play A Man for All Seasons he is portrayed as the calculating, unprincipled opposite of Thomas More's honour and rectitude.

Characterisation[edit]

Mantel's novel offers an alternative to that characterisation, a more intimate portrait of Cromwell as a pragmatic and talented man attempting to serve king and country amid the political machinations of Henry's court and the religious upheavals of the Protestant reformation.

Process[edit]

Mantel spent five years researching and writing the book; the trickiest part, she said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal,[5] was trying to match her version of events to the historical record. To avoid contradicting history, she created a card catalogue, organised alphabetically by character, with each card containing notes indicating where a particular historical figure was on relevant dates. "You really need to know, where is the Duke of Suffolk at the moment? You can't have him in London if he's supposed to be somewhere else", she explained. This depth of research is especially important when all the novel's main characters are historical figures.

Characters[edit]

Wolf Hall includes a large cast of fictionalised historical persons. In addition to those already mentioned, prominent characters include:

The title[edit]

The title comes from the name of the Seymour family seat at Wolf Hall or Wulfhall in Wiltshire; the title's allusion to the old Latin saying "Man is wolf to man" serves as a constant reminder of the dangerously opportunistic nature of the world through which Cromwell navigates.[6] None of the action occurs at Wolf Hall.

Critical reaction[edit]

... Wolf Hall succeeds on its own terms and then some, both as a non-frothy historical novel and as a display of Mantel's extraordinary talent. Lyrically yet cleanly and tightly written, solidly imagined yet filled with spooky resonances, and very funny at times, it's not like much else in contemporary British fiction. A sequel is apparently in the works, and it's not the least of Mantel's achievements that the reader finishes this 650-page book wanting more. —Christopher Tayler in The Guardian[7]
...dreadfully badly written... Mantel just wrote and wrote and wrote. I have yet to meet anyone outside the Booker panel who managed to get to the end of this tedious tome. God forbid there might be a sequel, which I fear is on the horizon. — Susan Bassnett, in Times Higher Education[8]
Over two decades, she has gained a reputation as an elegant anatomiser of malevolence and cruelty. From the French Revolution of A Place of Greater Safety (1992) to the Middle England of Beyond Black (2005), hers are scrupulously moral – and scrupulously unmoralistic – books that refuse to shy away from the underside of life, finding even in disaster a kind of bleak and unconsoling humour. It is that supple movement between laughter and horror that makes this rich pageant of Tudor life her most humane and bewitching novel. — Olivia Laing in The Observer[9]
... 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 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 – one that makes the drama unfolding nearly five centuries ago look new again, and shocking again, too. —Vanora Bennett in The Times[10]

Awards and nominations[edit]

  • Winner – 2009 Man Booker Prize. James Naughtie, the chairman of the Booker prize judges, said the decision to give Wolf Hall the award was "based on the sheer bigness of the book. The boldness of its narrative, its scene setting...The extraordinary way that Hilary Mantel has created what one of the judges has said was a contemporary novel, a modern novel, which happens to be set in the 16th century".[11]
  • Winner – 2009 National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction.
  • Winner – 2010 Walter Scott Prize for historical fiction.[12]
  • Winner – 2010 The Morning News Tournament of Books.[13]

Adaptations[edit]

Stage

In January 2013 the RSC announced that it would stage adaptations by Mike Poulton of Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies in its Winter season.[14]

Television

In 2012 the BBC announced that it would be adapting Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies for BBC Two, with an expected broadcast date of 2015.[15] On 8 March 2013, the BBC reported that Mark Rylance had been cast as Thomas Cromwell.[16]

See also[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ "Wolf Hall wins the 2009 Man Booker Prize for Fiction : Man Booker Prize news". Themanbookerprize.com. 6 October 2009. Retrieved 11 June 2010. 
  2. ^ "National Book Critics Circle: awards". Bookcritics.org. Retrieved 11 June 2010. 
  3. ^ Skidelsky, William (13 May 2012). "The 10 best historical novels". The Observer (Guardian Media Group). Retrieved 13 May 2012. 
  4. ^ William Georgiades (4 May 2012). "Hilary Mantel's Heart of Stone". The Slate Book Review. Slate.com. Retrieved 6 May 2012. 
  5. ^ Alter, Alexandra (13 November 2009). "How to Write a Great Novel". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 11 June 2010. 
  6. ^ "Historical sketches of the Reformation : Lee, Frederick George, 1832–1902 : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive". Archive.org. Retrieved 11 June 2010. 
  7. ^ Christopher Tayler (2 May 2009). "Henry's fighting dog". London: Guardian. Retrieved 11 June 2010. 
  8. ^ "Pseuds' corner". 9 February 2012. Retrieved 24 March 2012. 
  9. ^ Olivia Laing (26 April 2009). "Review: Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel | Books |". The Observer (London: Guardian). Retrieved 11 June 2010. 
  10. ^ Bennett, Vanora (25 April 2009). "Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel". The Times (London). Retrieved 6 September 2010. 
  11. ^ "Wolf Hall author takes home Booker prize". China.org.cn. 8 October 2009. Retrieved 11 June 2010. 
  12. ^ Flood, Alison (1 April 2010). "Booker rivals clash again on Walter Scott prize shortlist". The Guardian (London). 
  13. ^ "April 5, 2010 Championship". The Morning News. 
  14. ^ "David Tennant to play Richard II at the RSC". Daily Telegraph. 23 January 2013. Retrieved 23 January 2013. 
  15. ^ "Wolf Hall adaptation planned for BBC Two". BBC News. 24 August 2012. Retrieved 28 March 2013. 
  16. ^ "Mark Rylance set for Hilary Mantel TV drama". BBC News. 8 March 2013. Retrieved 14 October 2013. 

External links[edit]

Awards
Preceded by
The White Tiger
Man Booker Prize recipient
2009
Succeeded by
The Finkler Question