Connect with us

Thai Life

Phuket Books: Another man for all seasons

Legacy Phuket Gazette



PHUKET: Hilary Mantel was a 56-year-old English novelist of indifferent success, when she sat down to write a novel about Thomas Cromwell, the chief adviser to Henry VIII. As she recounts in a recent profile in The New Yorker: “I was filled with glee and a sense of power, a sense that I knew how to do this… I knew from the first paragraph that this was going to be the best thing I’d ever done.”

The reader shares her exhilaration, as did the judges of the Man Booker Prize, who awarded her novel Wolf Hall (Fourth Estate, London, 2009, 652pp) the coveted prize in 2009. Amazingly, she won it again just three years later for her sequel Bring Up the Dead.

Wolf Hall opens with 15-year-old Thomas Cromwell slithering like an eel on the cobblestones of his household courtyard. He has been knocked on the head and now is being kicked into oblivion by his father Walter: blacksmith, brewer and brawler, town drunk of Putney, on the outskirts of London.

Nursing his wounds, Thomas takes off for France to enlist in any war that will have him. He is next seen at the age of 40, the trusted henchman of Cardinal Wolsey, Lord Chancellor to Henry VII. Here is Mantel’s thumbnail portrait:

“He is a man of strong build, not tall. . . It is said he knows by heart the entire New Testament in Latin, and so as a servant of the cardinal is apt – ready with a text if abbots flounder. His speech is low and rapid, his manner assured; he is at home in courtroom or waterfront, bishop’s palace or inn yard. He can draft a contract, train a falcon, draw a map, stop a street fight, furnish a house and fix a jury. He will quote you a nice point in the old authors, from Plato to Plautus and back again. He knows new poetry, and can say it in Italian. He works all hours, first up and last to bed. He makes money and he spends it. He will take a bet on anything.”

Mantel is clever in keeping the details of Cromwell’s youthful adventures vague. We learn through Cromwell’s sporadic memories that he has been a soldier in France, an accountant for banking families in Florence and Venice, a wool merchant in Antwerp, a lawyer in London.

The year is now 1527 and Henry VIII, besotted with Anne Boleyn, is determined to put aside his first wife, Katherine of Aragon, aunt of Holy Roman Emperor Charles, in favor of producing a male heir from the new queen. Anne Boleyn’s ambitions lead to Cardinal Wolsey’s downfall, though Cromwell stays loyal to him till the end.

All these characters – King Henry, Anne Boleyn, Cardinal Wolsey, Queen Margaret – are vividly drawn as are scores of others – nobles, ladies in waiting, ambassadors, secretaries – who swirl around the central crisis of the English court. Thomas Cromwell soon joins them in the thick of it.

His ambition is parallel to the King’s: to wrest control of the church from Rome and plunder the rich monasteries of the countryside. Those of noble blood, often fops and fools, look down on Cromwell’s lowly origins, but the King depends totally on his astute advice on everything from finance to political tactics.

Cromwell’s main antagonist is the new chancellor, the great scholar Thomas More. The two share a complex friendship, but More’s dedication to principal and the papacy leads to his doom on the chopping block. Cromwell is reduced to both anger and grief.

Anne Boleyn is crowned Queen of England and Cromwell proceeds with the plan to transform the Kingdom. “Here, at the close of 1533, his spirit is sturdy, his will strong, his front imperturbable. The courtiers see that he can shape events, mold them. He can contain the fears of other men, and give them a sense of solidity in a quaking world: this people, this dynasty, this miserable rainy island at the edge of the world.”

“Wolf Hall” by Hilary Mantel is available for download for the kindle from Amazon (click here), or by order through the main bookshops in Phuket.

— James Eckardt


Get more from The Thaiger

📱 Download our app on Android or iOS
👋 Have your say on our Thailand forums
🔔 Subscribe to our daily email newsletter
📺 Subscribe / Join YouTube for daily shows
👍 Like/Follow us on Facebook
🐦 FOLLOW us on Twitter
📷 FOLLOW us on Instagram


Join the conversation and have your say on Thailand news published on The Thaiger.

Thaiger Talk is our new Thaiger Community where you can join the discussion on everything happening in Thailand right now.

Please note that articles are not posted to the forum instantly and can take up to 20 min before being visible. Click for more information and the Thaiger Talk Guidelines.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

Follow Thaiger by email:

Thailand47 mins ago

Bangkok Airways extends flight suspension to August 11

Thailand2 hours ago

7 Jomtien Beach curfew breakers arrested

Thailand2 hours ago

Buri Ram pig stable converted into gambling den: 22 arrests follow

Sponsored1 day ago

Experience Phuket’s Islands with 5 Star Marine

Welcome back to Thailand!

Thaiger is getting behind local businesses for the restart of tourism in Thailand - up to 50% discounts across all advertising packages!

Thailand3 hours ago

“Fake news” banned, Thai media say order infringes on freedoms

Phuket3 hours ago

Precarious Phuket: open internationally, closed domestically

Best of4 hours ago

Top 5 tattoo parlours Bangkok

Join the conversation on the Thaiger Talk forums today!
World4 hours ago

Duterte approves lockdown measures for Manila

Best of4 hours ago

The Best Pizza in Bangkok with Delivery

Thailand4 hours ago

Thailand News Today | worker camp woes, ‘fake news’ crackdown | July 30

Best of4 hours ago

Best Premium Hotel Buffets in Bangkok

Coronavirus (Covid-19)4 hours ago

CCSA considers extending restrictions in “dark red” zones for another 14 days

Thailand5 hours ago

Fake dead bodies used in Phuket protest, police plan real investigation

Best of5 hours ago

Top 5 adventure tours in Chiang Mai

Best of5 hours ago

Top 5 affordable hotels in Chiang Mai

Coronavirus (Covid-19)6 hours ago

Friday Covid Update: 17,345 new cases; provincial totals

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Thai Airways in rehab, All go for Songkran | March 4

Tourism5 months ago

Phuket’s nightlife. Yes, bars and clubs are still open | VIDEO

Phuket5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid passport talks, Thai Airways heads to court | March 2

Tourism5 months ago

Phuket Thai food treats you need to try | VIDEO

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Bars, pubs and restaurants ‘sort of’ back to normal | Feb 23

Tourism5 months ago

In search of Cat & Dog Cafés in Phuket Town | VIDEO

Thailand6 months ago

Thailand News Today | Gambling crackdown, Seafood market to reopen, Vlogger challenge | Jan 21

Thailand6 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid testing for visas, Business impact, Vaccine approval | January 19

Thailand6 months ago

Thailand News Today | Weekend Bangkok bombs, Thailand fires, Covid update | January 18

Thailand7 months ago

Thailand News Today | Stray car on runway, Indonesian quake, 300 baht tourist fee | January 15

Thailand7 months ago

Thailand News Today | Governor off respirator, sex-trafficking arrest, condo prices falling | January 14

Thailand7 months ago

Thailand News Today | Chinese vaccine, Thailand ‘drug hub’, Covid update | January 13

Thailand7 months ago

Thailand News Today | Bangkok may ease restrictions, Phuket bar curfew, Vaccine roll out | January 12

Thailand7 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid latest, Cockfights closed down, Bryde’s Whale beached | January 11

Thailand7 months ago

Thailand News Today | Southern floods, Face mask fines, Thai Air Asia woes | January 8