Audiobook Review of Wolf Hall
Simon Slater's performance brings Thomas Cromwell out of history and into humanity. Follow the audio while reading the ebook to indulge in Mantel's magic.
Imagine Thomas Cromwell maneuvering through region restrictions to access the enhanced edition app for Wolf Hall. UK residents can download the app, but when a US or Canadian customer searches Itunes Apps for Wolf Hall, Apple helpfully responds, "Did you mean golf ball?"
The star of Wolf Hall wouldn't put up with limited availability. The book is long and complex, and if Thomas Cromwell thought the audiobook should accompanied by the ebook, he'd make his own enhanced edition. "I'll make or mar," he promises in a voice of restrained urgency, and that thudding motto is the heartbeat of Hilary Mantel's brilliant Wolf Hall.
Making an Enhanced Edition ExperienceListening to the audiobook while reading the ebook gives the sense of an enhanced edition, especially when coupled with Slate's Audio Book Club Wolf Hall discussion podcast. Listening to and reading Wolf Hall is easily done by using:
Aligning the Wolf Hall Audiobook to the Printed and Kindle Ebook Editions
The ebook and printed book has 6 sections divided into 3 parts each. The audiobook has 3 parts divided into 7 chapters. The audiobook is structured for listeners, so to read along with it, use the keyword search for locations. Here are the main guiders:
When it comes to audiobooks, Audible vs. iTunes is a microcosm of Amazon vs. Apple. Audible has more choices, and iTunes is easier to use for purchases.Simon Slater's Performance StyleSlater's Cromwell speaks with a direct, commanding tone. Even when he is persuading and manipulating, Cromwell's voice is controlled and clear. Slater elevates his tone Cromwell elevates in status, and Cromwell sounds almost stately when he talks to Mary Tudor. Thomas More has a cartoonishly arrogant voice, and More's lines drip and hiss. It is not until More is condemned to die when Slater momentarily simplifies More's voice. Anne Boleyn is winsome and haughty, Mary Boleyn is charmingly sly, and Slater's performance of the Spanish ambassador Eustace Chapuys is energetic.
Much of Slater's narration sounds like a sports cast. Wosley frets, Cromwell counsels. Henry muses, Anne wheedles. More opines, Norfolk roars. Even the omniscient narration is done with Cromwell's tone, as the book is written with Mantel's unusual 3rd person case used in a 1st person structure. This occasionally leads to reading errors, since it is hard to determine which "he" is being spoken of – Wosley, Cromwell, More, or Henry. Even Slater makes errors in who is speaking to whom, which is why a homemade enhanced edition of reading while listening makes valuable untangling the characters.
The magnificence of Wolf Hall is attested to by its awards - The 2009 Booker Prize, Time's Top 10 Book of 2009, The National Book Circle Fiction Award, but it is a book that requires a lot of focus. An ebook/audiobook combination is for sale through the Wolf Hall Enhanced Experience app, but clever readers can be a bit Cromwellian and "make or mar" with available technologies.
Wolf Hall Publication Information
Wolf Hall was written by Hilary Mantel and published by Henry Hold in October 2009. It is available as a Kindle and Nook book through MacMillian books, and there is an enhanced UK Wolf Hall app. The ISBN is 0805080686.
The Wolf Hall unabridged audiobook was released by Macmillan Audio in November, 2009. It is performed by Simon Slater. The ISBN is 1427210160. It is available on Audible.com and iTunes.
This review was originally published in 2009 and updated in 2010. Some links may go to the Wayback Machine as I try to restore old article from the now-defunct Suite101.
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Ally Sharp is a teacher, writer and editor, and technology trainer.