One of the best books I have read in a long time is the Man Booker Prize winner for 2009, Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. Clever, sweeping, full of intrigue, affection and passion, Mantel has done a superb job of bringing Thomas Cromwell and his times to life. She even manages to make King Henry VIII attractive and somewhat understandable--so far. It seems clear that Mantel intends to continue Cromwell's story--she leaves him visiting Jane Seymour's home, Wolf Hall, before the end of Anne Boleyn's reign.
Cromwell remains a fascinating, enigmatic character even though we know all his secrets and motivations. He is the ultimate self-made man, rising to power from an impoverished, neglected childhood filled with his father's violent abuse. The book opens at the end of Cardinal Wolsey's influence, and tracks Wolsey's downfall through flashbacks. Wolsey reveals and conceals Cromwell through spreading everywhere numerous wild lies and exaggerations about his friend and supporter--stories which Cromwell enjoys and encourages.
The vivid descriptions and settings are enmeshed in atmosphere and life as one is enfolded in the happy Cromwell household of family and apprentices. The frequent travels and shifting alliances alarm as they enchant with their precarious and quicksilver nature. I will be looking out for both Mantel's previous and forthcoming books.
Five stars out of five!