Another astonishing tour de force from Hilary Mantel. A superb portrayal of a 'modern' politician in Tudor England - a brilliant, complex man both humane and brutal, subtle and blunt, ambitious and patient. Beautifully written, deceptively simple in style with flowing narrative, startling, vivid images and perceptive comments on life and people delivered with searing clarity and it all seems so effortless.
Not as well read as by the reader of Wolf Hall (who is superb) - the voices for the different characters are not well defined and the accents poor - but the narrative is well read and it doesn't detract from the excellence of the book.
I loved Restless and Any Human Heart, listened to it that order and although I enjoyed this, it's not as good as the other two and I can't put my finger on the reason. I wonder if it's the reader? Harrier Walter reads beautifully, the voices are very well done and yet ... and yet... She has a very distinctive voice and the very clarity of her diction and the rather clipped vowels create a brittle feel to Hope Clearwater, who is anything but brittle or fragile; like the women in Restless she is independent, strong and resourceful. I think Harriet Walter would be brilliant reading Jane Austen or PG Woodhouse - the crisp accent just letting through the emotions, humour and wit - but I thought she was a bit too posh for this and maybe, oddly, too good for it too. She would be more suited to writing with more depth to it. The editing has also been severe with the break between chapters often non existent so, especially near the beginning before I realised this was the case, I was floundering as the story moved backwards and forwards in time and place without any perceptible pause to indicate a new chapter. But I decided to give it 4 stars - 3 seemed really too mean for what was still a very enjoyable listen.
This is a good story which kept me involved and wanting more, keeping up its pace until the end. The reader did not do it justice. She reads competently but with no voices at all, just her own same flat American accent and intonations and it's impossible to tell from her voice who is speaking even when the character is Australian. A great shame as I would highly recommend the book otherwise and I still enjoyed it.