Wolf Hall Audiobook | Hilary Mantel | Audible.co.uk
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Wolf Hall | [Hilary Mantel]
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Wolf Hall

Tudor England. Henry VIII is on the throne, but has no heir. Cardinal Wolsey is charged with securing his divorce. Into this atmosphere of distrust comes Thomas Cromwell - a man as ruthlessly ambitious in his wider politics as he is for himself. His reforming agenda is carried out in the grip of a self-interested parliament and a king who fluctuates between romantic passions and murderous rages.
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Publisher's Summary

National Book Critics Circle, Fiction, 2010

Man Booker Prize, Fiction, 2009

Tudor England. Henry VIII is on the throne, but has no heir. Cardinal Wolsey is charged with securing his divorce. Into this atmosphere of distrust comes Thomas Cromwell - a man as ruthlessly ambitious in his wider politics as he is for himself. His reforming agenda is carried out in the grip of a self-interested parliament and a king who fluctuates between romantic passions and murderous rages.

©2009 Hilary Mantell; (P)2009 WF Howes Ltd

What the Critics Say

"If the dance between king and mistress is expertly choreographed, it is Mantel's presentation of the common realm - the seething streets of Putney and Wimbledon, populated by drapers and boatmen - that gives this novel the force of revelation." (The Guardian)

"...as soon as I opened the book I was gripped. I read it almost non-stop. When I did have to put it down, I was full of regret the story was over, a regret I still feel. This is a wonderful and intelligently imagined retelling of a familiar tale from an unfamiliar angle - one that makes the drama unfolding nearly five centuries ago look new again, and shocking again, too. " (The Times)

"The reader, Simon Slater, skilfully adopts contrasting voices and the narrative has an immediacy close to a dramatisation... Provocative, rewarding listening." (The Times)

What Members Say

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Performance
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  •  
    Francis Liverpool, United Kingdom 31/10/2009
    Francis Liverpool, United Kingdom 31/10/2009 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
    265
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    12
    12
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    1
    0
    Overall
    "Past imperfect."

    This is a long, rich complex historical novel and for many people this unabridged audio version will be an excellent way to get to know such a lengthy work. But some caution may be necessary . Simon Slater reads the basic narrative well and gives a gripping portrayal of Thomas Cromwell, the main focus of interest in this account of the reign of Henry VIII to 1535. But although he is clearly aware of the necessity of some differentiation for other important characters, his solutions are not always convincing and fail to do justice to the subtlety and detail of Hilary Mantel's writing :Cardinal Wolsey sounds dimwitted, Thomas More - far from a saintly character in this novel- sounds sly and slimy and the old nobility blustering idiots. In each case there is an element of truth in the portrayal but they come across too often as cardboard cut-outs.
    Most readers will also find that they will need to have or to acquire a good knowledge of Early Tudor history to appreciate fully what Hilary Mantel is attempting in this book. There is much fascinating detail and insight to enjoy but in the end I was left feeling the book could profitably have been more tautly focussed and better structured ? it seems to peter out rather than reach a proper closure -is a sequel intended?
    Certainly then on the whole a worthwhile audiobook but be prepared for a text that is occasionally self indulgent ? repetitious and over detailed ? and a reading that is enjoyable but unconvincing and inadequate in places.

    55 of 64 people found this review helpful
  •  
    M Wakefield, United Kingdom 08/11/2012
    M Wakefield, United Kingdom 08/11/2012 Member Since 2012

    I'm a singing songwriting postie living in Yorkshire. Sometimes I like to be challenged by a book, and sometimes I just want to lose myself.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    51
    ratings
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    49
    39
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    10
    10
    Overall
    "A worthy challenge."

    I wasn’t finding this a particularly easy book to read (or at least to listen to) until I was about halfway through. Then something clicked, and I realised what it was about the writing that felt strange: there’s no plot - or should I say that the plot is so old and well known that the author doesn’t bother with it. The characters are real people from our past and their life stories are history: set in stone, in a thousand textbooks, their fates are already decided, even if it's only us - the readers - that know it. And Hilary Mantel presumes we do, and so, freed from twisting and shaping a plot, she concentrates on their language: their thoughts and inner voices; the words they might have spoken; even their body language is used to take us deep into their lives and motivations, and Hilary Mantel certainly can write. Whether it’s Thomas More intellectualising his inhumanity or a coarse fisherman going on about some prostitutes her writing is fluid and believable.

    Thomas Cromwell was unknown to me before I started Wolf Hall but now I’ve got the feeling that he’s going to stay with me as one of the great (non?) fictional historical characters. (I don’t know, or really care, if this is a true portrait of Thomas Cromwell, but the author made a great decision by putting him at the heart of this pivotal moment in history.)

    He’s a wonderfully complex man: his fidelity to his friends, family, masters and ideals contrasts with the ruthlessness of his politics; his drive to free England of the shackles of Rome is bizarrely made possible by the whims of his King, and he accepts this and uses it; and most of all, his comfortableness with the commoners combines beautifully with his ability to motivate and manipulate his betters.

    The narrator - Simon Slater - gives every character their own distinctive voice and he adds depth, menace or lightness as needed. So, overall, not an easy read but a beautiful and worthy challenge.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Phil Bedford, United Kingdom 22/01/2010
    Phil Bedford, United Kingdom 22/01/2010 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
    25
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    18
    13
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    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    "Lose yourself in 16th century England"

    Well, we all know the story of Henry VIII and his wives, so this book had to deliver something different to keep my attention for 24 hours of listening - and for me, it did. The story is told through the eyes of Thomas Cromwell, as he progresses from the gutter in Putney to hold high office in the King's court. There is a wealth of historical detail and a constant undercurrent of political intrigue. Occasionally, Hilary Mantel slips into some loose writing and a bit of self indulgence as she wanders from the story but for me, the star of the show is the narrator, Simon Slater. He has the ability to wrap the story around the listener, breathing life into the characters with a wide range of colour and inflexion to go with the different voices and accents he employs. Far from the saintly man portrayed in 'A Man For All Seasons', Thomas More is characterised as an arrogant cynic, and Slater's voice drips with comtempt and disdain as he speaks his words. I'm not usually one for 'literary' works, crime and thrillers being my regular listening, but I have to say this was such a good story, so well told, it had me spellbound all the way through. I usually listen while walking my dogs and their walks got longer as I just wanted to hear a little bit more... Other reviews are mixed, so I guess the only way to really find out if you'll like it is to try it. By the way, Wolf Hall is the home of Jane Seymour, setting up a sequel, I hope!

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Debbie LondonUnited Kingdom 13/11/2009
    Debbie LondonUnited Kingdom 13/11/2009 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
    27
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    2
    1
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    2
    0
    Overall
    "Best audio book I've bought so far."

    This book was an extremely worthy winner of the Man Booker prize and Simon Slater's reading of it only served to enhance the story. He represented each of the characters in a very individual way and each had their own style of speech and intonation meaning that I really got a feel for the character behind the words. I thoroughly enjoyed the colourful and inventive curses uttered by various players and the droll way in which Simon represented Cardinal Wolsely. I would heartily recommend this title.

    27 of 32 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Purple Shrewsbury, United Kingdom 29/07/2012
    Purple Shrewsbury, United Kingdom 29/07/2012 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
    11
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    1
    1
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    0
    0
    Overall
    "Voice characterisations are too similar"

    I managed to listen to 2 hours and 7 minutes before I had had enough.

    The style of writing is quirky, so I imagine that it would be a challenge to narrate this really well. In fact the narrator does quite well with all the background stuff, its just the character voices that are not working at all. Twice in 2 hours I've not realised that a conversation between person A and B has turned into chat between A and C. This is entitely due to the voice characterisations being so similar to one another.

    11 of 13 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kirstine Bonnyrigg, United Kingdom 14/12/2009
    Kirstine Bonnyrigg, United Kingdom 14/12/2009 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1301
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    424
    317
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    1198
    0
    Overall
    "History brought to life"

    It's a very long listen but enjoyed every hour of it. Excellently read by Simon Slater who skilfully gives the many different characters distinctive voices that helps with identification. The book covers a relatively short, but tumultuous period of Henry VIIIth reign during which he agonizes over getting a divorce from Katherine of Aragon and marries Anne Bolyne. It's a familiar period of history, but, for me, what was most interesting was the different slant on the story in that it is told from the point of view of Thomas Cromwell: usually a demonized figure in history, I found him a much more complex and more humane character than I had previously believed. Conversely, my image of Sir Thomas More, based on the film and play "A Man for all Seasons", has been shifted to think him less than saintly in his relentless pursuit of those he deemed to be heretics and over-weaningly self-righteous.
    The book brought this period of history to life for me in the characterization of the main players and the atmosphere and religious tensions of Tudor England. It's also a salutary reminder of how cruel and barbaric this country was in the treatment of prisoners in the not too distant past.

    17 of 21 people found this review helpful
  •  
    cats22 Oxfordshire 06/01/2010
    cats22 Oxfordshire 06/01/2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
    48
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    184
    26
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    3
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    Overall
    "Wonderful book and superb reading"

    I have read prize winning books before and have been sadly disappointed so, although I was strongly interested in this book, I decided to get it as an audiobook first, just in case. I loved it so much I have now bought the book too.

    I did find I was confused at first about who all the people were, as without the hard copy of the book you don't get the cast of characters but that didn't spoil my enjoyment as I just let it wash over me and all became clear.

    This book gives another perspective on the stories many of us have heard and Cromwell is usually just portrayed as the two dimensional villain of the piece, almost the only real villain.

    This on the other hand sets him within a world where there was so much turmoil and self-seeking and gives a wonderfully realised portrait of the man as he might have been, for all we know. The book doesn't avoid the actions Cromwell is known for but they are there if you look, placed into the context of a time of great upheaval and cruelty and a King who hardly knew from one year to the next what he wanted.

    I think the reading is superb and like another reviewer I have looked for other books read by Simon Slater, unfortunately none so far but I do hope he will read more.

    The characterisation was just right for characters such as Cardinal Wolsey (who apparently had an impish sense of humour) and Thomas More, rather a cruel man as distinct from his sainted image in other portrayals.

    But the real triumph is the voice of Cromwell himself, the loving family man, gentle and considerate to others whom he respects (or pities like Catherine of Aragon or even, eventually, Thomas More), funny at times, sometimes silkily seductive, always in control in public even when he is grieving. It's also a very detailed performance, the voice of Cromwell changes from the lost but self-contained boy to bruiser to diplomat and even charmer over the course of the reading.

    One word, superb.

    12 of 15 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Francis Liverpool, United Kingdom 31/10/2009
    Francis Liverpool, United Kingdom 31/10/2009 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
    193
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    46
    24
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    4
    0
    Overall
    "Past imperfect."

    This is a long, rich complex historical novel and for many people this unabridged audio version will be an excellent way to get to know such a lengthy work. But some caution may be necessary . Simon Slater reads the basic narrative well and gives a gripping portrayal of Thomas Cromwell, the main focus of interest in this account of the reign of Henry VIII to 1535. But although he is clearly aware of the necessity of some differentiation for other important characters, his solutions are not always convincing and fail to do justice to the subtlety and detail of Hilary Mantel's writing :Cardinal Wolsey sounds dimwitted, Thomas More - far from a saintly character in this novel- sounds sly and slimy and the old nobility blustering idiots. In each case there is an element of truth in the portrayal but they come across too often as cardboard cut-outs.
    Most readers will also find that they will need to have or to acquire a good knowledge of Early Tudor history to appreciate fully what Hilary Mantel is attempting in this book. There is much fascinating detail and insight to enjoy but in the end I was left feeling the book could profitably have been more tautly focussed and better structured ? it seems to peter out rather than reach a proper closure -is a sequel intended?
    Certainly then on the whole a worthwhile audiobook but be prepared for a text that is occasionally self indulgent ? repetitious and over detailed ? and a reading that is enjoyable but unconvincing and inadequate in places.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jane Richmond, United Kingdom 17/01/2010
    Jane Richmond, United Kingdom 17/01/2010 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
    13
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    36
    3
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    1
    0
    Overall
    "Disappointing narration"

    This is one Audible purchase that I think I would have preferred to read than listen to. The characters are fascinating, but my enjoyment of them and of the story was spoiled by the unnecessarily malevolent or just plain unpleasant tone of many of the 'voices' employed by the narrator. Thomas More sounded particularly evil, and I found it difficult to warm to Cromwell himself because of his harsh voice. A shame, as my previous experiences of your readers has been very positive.

    7 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Irene London, United Kingdom 05/05/2013
    Irene London, United Kingdom 05/05/2013 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
    10
    ratings
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    86
    12
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    "Excellent novel"

    As a historical novel this is superb and as a portrait of people in any age is also very good. Simon Slater is also fantastic and made the characters come to life.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-10 of 150 results PREVIOUS1215NEXT
Sort by:
  • Margaret
    Patonga, NSW, Australia
    21/07/10
    Overall
    "Wolf Hall"

    This is an extraordinary book written by an extraordinary writer. I read first the print version, but found myself at times lost in the story telling - now who is speaking - now whose story is being told. This audible version brings the characters to life wonderfully and adds a depth to the story. I give the narrator, Simon Slater, five stars also.

    10 of 10 people found this review helpful
  • Conor
    OttigniesBelgium
    24/06/10
    Overall
    "Wolf Hall"

    Hard to imagine a better interpretation. Simon Slater has a huge repertoire of voices and knows how to manipulate silence... masterly

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  • Hilary
    St. Laurent de Ceris, France
    06/12/09
    Overall
    "Thoroughly Satisfying"

    This was my first time listening to a novel on my I-Pod, and I was thrilled and totally satisfied. When the novel, which is lengthy, came to a conclusion, I almost found myself crying with disappointment. I can't wait to hear when the sequel to 'Wolf Hall' is published.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • Ian C Robertson
    South Australia, Australia
    03/02/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Brilliant Simplicity"

    I have literally just finished listening to this wonderful work, part novel, part history, part biography and wholly a revelation. It is difficult to comprehend how the well traveled road of Henry VIII, the Boylens, Thomas More, Wolsey and others could be given a new perspective. Ms Mantel has done just that, and from the point of view of the apparently least sympathetic character, Thomas Cromwell. Of course we all know how it ends, but that is in part the genius of the narrative. Even knowing that, the story presents itself, in the true sense, as novel. I was not tempted to the dictionary with regularity nor to the history books. Because the history is well know, the essentials don't need to be cross-checked (as they often have to with other historical novels). The incidentals don't press you to be checked (because they illuminate the characters in preference to the events).
    I particularly like the seeming transition from the third person to the first person that the author has employed with great skill. Through it, and the simple device of capturing the day to day, she conveys what some other historical novelists miss: the inner character of the historical figures. For example, whereas Thomas More's martyrdom seems like the hallmark of his struggle with Henry, as an event for Cromwell it is much more. Cromwell respects and disrespects More in proportion, but he hates that great thinkers must be sacrificed. Yet sacrifice is the artifice of government. That dilemma for Cromwell is palpable from the narrative. For all that, the language is simple throughout, reflecting a Protestant value true to Cromwell's aspiration. It also reflects with wonderful eloquence a simpler time when there was a right and a wrong (although they could change overnight at the monarch's whim); England in the 1530s. I was tempted to keep reading, moving to the second in the trilogy at once. I have resisted only to make that reading even more auspicious.
    As to the performance by Simon Slater, I think him the perfect selection to read this work. His voices were attuned to each character, particularly Cromwell and More. The stretch narrative was conveyed at a lovely pace. I am pleased to see he has also read a version of the sequel. It is on my Wish List.
    In my opinion, Ms Mantel deserved the Man-Booker Prize for this work and readers of good books deserve to have books of this quality win prestigious awards.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Nicholas
    Coromandel Valley, Australia
    06/10/12
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "As close to perfection as it gets"

    Never has a book so nearly given me the impression of looking out of the eyes of another human being. The Thomas Cromwell depicted in this nearly perfect novel is a complex, real man, the product of his upbringing and his society, shaped by tragedies and triumphs as narrow in scope as his brilliantly drawn household and as broad as all Christendom, and himself the shaper of a whole new England - one that would in due course change the world forever.

    Slater's narration is also simply magical. He gives each character his or her (and there are many significant hers) own voice, manner and personality. I swore when I learned that the sequel is not narrated by him, because I wanted desperately for this astonishing experience to continue seamlessly for the length of another novel. At least.

    The rating I have given is not accustomed hyperbole - in half a dozen reviews this is my first 5/5/5 stars, and richly deserved for the delight I have had over the last few days. Enjoy.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Linn
    Stockholm, Sweden
    30/04/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Much too constructed"

    I wanted to love this, but despite many efforts over at least 15 hours I can't even like it. There is absolutely no emotional involvement in any of the characters nor the story. It would be like reading the driest newspaper article summing up the events, which isn't what I would expect of a novel, if it weren't for the laboured construction that made it much more inaccessible and frankly uninteresting.

    And I tried. I read the first third on my Kindle, but kept falling asleep (has only ever happened with the ridiculously bad Fifty shades of Grey). Switched to the audio book hoping that a lively narration would bring the characters to life and thus start to matter, in any way, to me. It didn't.

    As I read it for a book club I persisted, but a little over half way through I gave up. I just couldn't bring myself to give it another eleven hours of my life. Out of the six serious book nerds in my book club I was the one who got the farthest, by far. One, who is extremely interested in Henry VIII, had finished and thought it dry and uninvolving, but we soon realised she had unwittingly listened to an abridged version of eight hours. That's one third of the original book's length. She said she'd never ever spend over 24 hours of reading time on the full version. The book club even reads quite a bit of award winning lit, many of my favourites are Pulitzer winners for instance, so it's not a question of that.

    I even tried reading it just to explore the construction, but that didn't grab my interest either. To me, this is simply a boring book.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Joy
    Sydney, Australia
    07/01/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A Masterpiece"
    If you could sum up Wolf Hall in three words, what would they be?

    Superb, Brilliant, Worth the Man Booker win


    What other book might you compare Wolf Hall to and why?

    Nothing, it is one of the best historical fictions i have ever come across, Ken Follett came close years ago but this is magic. The characters are alive, every voice is perfect. Even when the narrator draws breath you know which character it is. The historical detail and the tiniest events mentioned are all covered and closed off. I think half the women who read this will fall for Thomas Cromwell.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    So many but I found the detail about the rituals of Easter and Thomas Cromwell advising on cooking a real hoot. The tortue scenes are fascinating without being gross and the history is detailed without being boring - and for once - interesting


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    Yes, I could not stop recommending it to people - after 5 years of book club this one stole the show


    Any additional comments?

    Now onto Bring up the Bodies and I am loving it already.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Tracey
    Bonogin, Australia
    11/03/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Fabulous Narration Brings Big Story Alive"
    What did you love best about Wolf Hall?

    Hilary Mantel brings this era to life in one's mind's eye, with her accurate descriptions and real flesh and blood characters that are solid to the bone. The title, however, has very little to do with the story, Wolf Hall being the home of Jane Seymour's family, and this book is mainly concerned with the life and career of Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII's chief adviser and counsel, and that of the seven years it took to see Queen Catherine deposed, and Anne Boleyn installed as Henry's second bride. It follows the tensions of the religious beliefs and superstitions of the day, the tumult of the turning of England away from the rule of Catholicism and the very conception of the Church of England. Strewn with court gossip and delicate descriptions of allegiances and connivings among the courtiers, and more than the odd grisly execution and plague, and one feels and breathes the atmosphere that Mantel so carefully weaves her reader (listener) into.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Thomas Cromwell won my heart. Hilary constantly refers to Thomas as 'he' and then later in the book, as 'he, Cromwell'. Apparently history did not do Thomas Cromwell any kindnesses, but Hilary's depiction of him is of almost a modern thinking man, incredibly intelligent, stealthy, trustworthy and even compassionate. I had no idea that the modern political system was actually largely influenced by this man, and with that, the creation of the Church under the British Monarch, instead of being ruled by Rome from afar, where the well-being of the nation of England was far from the Roman Pope's concern.


    What does Simon Slater bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    Simon Slater, I want to marry you... Oh to wake up each day and hear your dulcet tones would be as milk and honey for my ears. Simon brings each character alive, how he remembers all the voices he creates for each character and remains true to them right to the end is beyond me. Far from just being entertaining, it helps one to remember each character and their part in the story, as it is a vastly populated story, and one could easily forget who and what each character is/does. Simon read the story to me where I would have easily stopped reading the book, as it is wordy, and the plots are convoluted. I can see why there are many reviews on book sites where readers say they just gave up on this book without finishing it. I would have too had I not had it in Audible version. And I never grew tired of hearing his voice. Simon has a clearly enunciated but relaxed style of speaking, a beautiful well-rounded resonant baritone, a real 'man's voice', and yet, reading the women's voice parts, he did those so well too. And all the foreign accents. The Putney accent made me laugh. I hope the sequel "Bring Up the Bodies" is as good, although it is not narrated by Simon.


    Who was the most memorable character of Wolf Hall and why?

    Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII and the conniving, ill-tempered, Anne Boleyn. This book made me want to research this period of history so I could better understand the political and religious contexts. The master painter Hans Holbein, the Court painter of the time, so wonderfully captured each one of these artful players from England's history. I now have a better understanding and appreciation of the influence on our current political system after having done this small bit of research. Who knew Thomas Cromwell? No-one, yet he is responsible for so much of the way our modern societal systems work.


    Any additional comments?

    I thoroughly recommend this book in Audible format. I enjoyed it immensely. Thank you Hilary for your incredible creation and thank you Simon for making it come to life.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • gautham
    Bangalore, India
    13/10/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Not gripping"
    Would you try another book from Hilary Mantel and/or Simon Slater?

    NO


    What do you think your next listen will be?

    God of small things


    How did the narrator detract from the book?

    hard to differentiate between the persons thoughts and the various characters actually interacting


    Any additional comments?

    Please allow me to choose another audio book. Will really appreciate it

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Carlo Hagemann
    the Netherlands
    30/05/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Too many people for my ears/brain"
    Any additional comments?

    I have tried to listen to this book, but it was too hard for me (non-native) to tell all the persons apart. What I heard was intriguing, but every distraction (I listen while I walk from home to work) made me feeling lost between the characters.

    It's not the fault of Simon Slater. He does an extraordinary job. Maybe I will try later, but for now I think I wille have to read the book first, and even then.....

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-10 of 12 results PREVIOUS12NEXT

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