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Maxwell Justus Mitchell

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Exceptional Final Volume of the Wolf Hall Trilogy

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-03-20

I would strongly recommend that you listen to the first two volumes in the trilogy - Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies - before listening to The Mirror and the Light. Otherwise, many of the allusions and references in the book may be lost on you. You need to follow the story right from the beginning in order to fully appreciate the plot and the characters in this final volume.

Disregard everything that other reviewers are saying about the narrator giving a poor performance. Hilary Mantel chose Ben Miles specifically to read the audiobook, and if all of the critics in the comments section would take the time to listen to the interview with the author at the end of The Mirror and the Light you will see that Mantel praises Miles effusively for the voices he does for each character. She even goes so far as to say that Ben Miles' voice for Cromwell is the voice she hears in her head when thinking about how Cromwell would have spoken. Thomas Cromwell was from Putney and was the son of a blacksmith, so it's natural that he would have spoken with a more 'working class' accent. The narrators for the previous two volumes in the trilogy, Simon Slater and Simon Vance, make Cromwell sound like he was an aristocratic courtier. I have listened to the whole of The Mirror and the Light and I can say without hesitation that Ben Miles puts his heart and soul into the narration and really makes the different characters come alive. I have listened to approximately 4 hours per day of this book since it was released on Audible and I have only just finished it this morning. This makes me suspect that the people writing hundreds of negative reviews have not bothered to finish the book, but rather are complaining about the narration after only a couple of hours of listening time. Have some patience with Ben Miles' narration and I assure you that you will come to really enjoy the voices he does for each character as you get further into the book's plot.

The book itself is absolutely exceptional. The plot is very tense and gripping, and you are left on the edge of your seat waiting to see exactly when and how Cromwell will fall from grace and be parted with his head. The prose is beautiful and evocative, with many paragraphs reading more like poetry. I would say that compared to the previous two volumes, this volume is more philosophical and elegiac in tone. There's less saucy humour than in Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, and it spends more time wrestling with deep issues like the inevitability of death, morality, faith, our fallibility when it comes to knowing ourselves and to knowing others, etc. The ending is obviously very sad. If it's any consolation, Thomas Howard and the evil Bishop Gardiner were both imprisoned in the tower not long after Cromwell was beheaded. There are also historical documents which suggest that Henry VIII came to deeply regret Cromwell's execution, and, indeed, his realm was not well managed for the remainder of his reign. I really enjoyed Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, but I would say that The Mirror and the Light is the best volume of the trilogy. Mantel really gives it her all, and it left a deep impression on me. I would be amazed if she doesn't win the Booker Prize for this (which would make her the only person in history to win the award three times).

Anyway, this is not a short book, so be prepared for a considerable time investment. But the book will repay your efforts and then some.


26 people found this helpful

Exceptional Novel

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 05-03-20

I found this to be a really enjoyable read. Mark Deakins puts his heart and soul into the narration, and does distinctive voices for each of the different characters, which really makes the story come alive. The prose is very beautiful, there is plenty of saucy humour, and the plot is gripping. The book does a great job of transporting you back in time to 1930s New York. You get a real sense of the sights, sounds, smells, and textures of the city. Billy Bathgate is generally regarded as the greatest gangster novel of all time, and, having now read it, I can certainly see why. I don't want to spoil any of the plot, but the highlight for me was Billy and Mrs Drew's trip to Saratoga Springs - that part of the novel was very well written and left quite an impression on me.

Exceptional Novel

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 05-03-20

I found this to be a really enjoyable read. Simon Slater puts his heart and soul into the narration, and does distinctive voices for each of the different characters, which really makes the story come alive. The prose is very beautiful, there is plenty of saucy humour, and the plot is gripping. I think Hilary Mantel has done a great job of breathing life into a classic period of English history. It takes a lot of creativity to come up with something genuinely original like this, and I'm not at all surprised that she won the Man Booker Prize for it.

A Dark Masterpiece

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 18-02-20

As many other reviewers have noted, this is a very dark novel. Lindqvist does not spare any gruesome details of the murders and sexual abuses that occur in the story, so if you are squeamish this might not be the book for you. As far as I'm concerned however, the darker the better when it comes to horror novels.

Having said that, it may be somewhat misleading to even categorise this as a horror novel: in truth, it is a poignant, beautiful, and deeply moving love story masquerading as a vampire horror. The vampire genre in general has been flooded with corny trash like the Twilight series, but Let the Right One In is brutal, gritty, and presents a more 'realistic' construal of the vampire myth compared with the romanticised accounts in other popular books. If vampires actually existed, I would expect them to be more-or-less as described in Lindqvist's book. But as I say, concealed beneath the actual horror of the book is a love story between the two main characters. This fact about the book should not put you off, because these aspects of the plot are blended in a masterful and compelling way. The structure of the book as a love story within the horror story left a very deep impression on me. I found it to be haunting, sad, and wistful. Even two days after finishing the book I cannot stop thinking about it.

In conclusion then, if you're looking for a vampire horror that is believable and genuinely scary and doesn't make you roll your eyes, then you will be very impressed with this book. Ranked on a pure horror scale, it is probably an 8/10. However, it is the incredibly wistful and affecting love story told within the horror story that really takes this book to the next level and makes it a 10/10 overall.

1 person found this helpful

A True Masterpiece

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 01-12-19

This is the best nonfiction book I have ever read. At first I was put off by the fairly niche subject matter, and it took me a while to get round to listening to it, but once I started listening I was absolutely hooked within 20 minutes. Robert Caro is a master of biography. The prose is beautiful, moving, and interspersed with many humorous anecdotes. At times this book made me laugh so hard that I had tears in my eyes. It's not solely focused on the political career of LBJ, there's a great deal of general history of America from 1940-1960. You learn a lot about Washington, the culture of the Deep South, Texas, lobbying, the Democratic and Republican parties, segregation, the media, etc.

Grover Gardner deserves a medal for his performance. He is the perfect narrator for this biography.

It's a long read, but I promise that the three volumes of Master of the Senate are 100% worth your time.

A Work of Breathtaking Beauty

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 04-02-19

Reading this novel is a spiritual experience. It's unbelievably profane and hypnotically violent, but has glimmers of real tenderness and redemption.

British Comedy Series Par Excellence

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 26-10-18

Sunny and delightful, and engagingly narrated. More than a few laugh-out-loud moments. The only thing is that I wish it were not the abridged version.

An Hilarious and Successfully Ironic Performance

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 23-10-18

This is LITERARY fiction: If you don't like books that are subtle, philosophical, complex, sometimes obscure, and often challenging, then find something else to read. This is not an easy read, but it rewards the effort you put into it.

Steven Pacey's narration is flawless: the voices he does for all of the different characters are spot-on.

The book itself is Amis' best. He clearly put everything he had into writing it ... a very smart man.

A Work of Genius, Performed Perfectly

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 14-10-18

It's hard to praise Rob Inglis enough, he does a wide variety of voices for all of the characters and actually sings the songs properly. In my opinion, listening to his narrations is actually BETTER than reading the books in text form - he breathes a life into the story that makes it even more compelling.

A Work of Genius, Performed Perfectly

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 14-10-18

It's hard to praise Rob Inglis enough, he does a wide variety of voices for all of the characters and actually sings the songs properly. In my opinion, listening to his narrations is actually BETTER than reading the books in text form - he breathes a life into the story that makes it even more compelling.