Thursday, October 8, 2009

Mantel takes the Booker prize 2009

With none of the usual blood on the carpet, this year’s judges agreed that they would be happy to see any of the finalists win.

The vote wasn’t unanimous, but Mantel’s Wolf Hall won out for its bold scope, detail and lyricism, with glittering passages that are said to make you want to read them over and over again.

England in the 1520s is a heartbeat from disaster. If the king dies without a male heir, the country could be destroyed by civil war. Henry VIII wants to annul his marriage of twenty years, and marry Anne Boleyn. The pope and most of Europe opposes him. The quest for the king's freedom destroys his adviser, the brilliant Cardinal Wolsey, and leaves a power vacuum.

Into this impasse steps Thomas Cromwell. Cromwell is a wholly original man, a charmer and a bully, both idealist and opportunist, astute in reading people and a demon of energy: he is also a consummate politician, hardened by his personal losses, implacable in his ambition. But Henry is volatile: one day tender, one day murderous. Cromwell helps him break the opposition, but what will be the price of his triumph?

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