Entertainment Books What to read under captivity: The stunning Wolf Hall trilogy

What to read under captivity: The stunning Wolf Hall trilogy

From the BBC production of Walk Hall, the last moments of Anne Boleyn. Mantel's words make it even more horrifying. Photo: supplied
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Just after the 2012 publication of Bring Up the Bodies – her second book in the Wolf Hall trilogy – British writer Hilary Mantel explained to a journalist the series’ impact on her life.

“I think it took me half a page of Wolf Hall to think: ‘this is the novel I should have been writing all along’.”

Dame Hillary Mantel is a masterful story-teller. She is odds-on to become the first writer to win the Booker Prize three times. And she deserves it. Photo: Facebook

In 2009 Mantel won a Booker Prize for Wolf Hall, a vast and brilliant historical novel that tells her fictional account of the rise of Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII’s close advisor and Mr Fixit, from 1500 to 1535.

Wolf Hall reveals the human sides of ambition as Cromwell successfully extricates his sovereign from the clutches of the Catholic Church so Henry can divorce Catherine of Aragon, marry Anne Boleyn and set up his own church.

A literary work of art it is, indeed, the story Mantel was destined to tell.

Three years later the book’s sequel Bring Up The Bodies arrived. It brings to life Cromwell’s 1536 master plan to rid the kingdom of Anne and won a second Booker Prize for its creator. Mantel’s storytelling magic continued.

Three weeks ago the book world welcomed with delight the third and the final in Mantel’s Cromwell trilogy. A vast 800-page brick of a book, The Mirror And The Light this week moved to top spot on the Australian bestseller list.

Thomas Cromwell was in many ways a brilliant thug, but Mantel makes him equally rich in humanity and decency as well as ruthless ambition. Image: Wikipedia/Creative commons

Readers of history know the script: despite Henry’s happy union to his beloved Jane Seymour of Wolf Hall, Cromwell gradually falls out of favour and, like Anne Boleyn, is sent to the Tower of London to
suffer the same fate.

Mantel builds a brilliant political narrative of suspense and surprise. In our view, this is the best of the three novels and deserves to nab another Booker for Dame Hilary.

During this stay-at-home time, there couldn’t be a more perfect book series for bookworms to enjoy.

Corrie Perkin is a Melbourne journalist and bookseller.

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