5 Books to Read From Hilary Mantel, the Author of “Wolf Hall”

Posted on September 26, 2022

by Eric P

Hilary Mantel’s seminal novel Wolf Hall is populated with a cast of characters – Henry VIII, Thomas More, Anne Boleyn, and its protagonist Thomas Cromwell – who have already appeared in countless other fictionalized works by authors ranging from Shakespeare to Robert Bolt to Philippa Gregory to the team behind the hit Broadway musical Six. You’d be hard pressed to find characters more exhaustively explored in fiction, besides Batman.

But Mantel introduces a few wrinkles. Her Thomas More – lionized as a philosophically minded man of principle in A Man for All Seasons – is a callous and self-aggrandizing showboater. Her royal bureaucrats, separated from us by centuries, feel as immediate and recognizable as the office politicker in the cubicle next to yours. And her idiosyncratic use of language, simultaneously poetic and colloquial, plunges us so firmly into the grit and gunk of the sixteenth century that you feel like you get it under your fingernails.

Mantel died September 22 at the age of 70. Be advised that Wolf Hall and its two sequels, which sold a ton of copies and won all the awards, aren’t brief. So if you want to be able to talk about them at your next get-together, better start reading now.