by Hilary Mantel
Holt, 2010. 532 pgs. Historical Fiction.
The "familiar" story of Henry the Eighth, Catherine of Aragon, and Anne Boleyn is told here through the little-known lens of the life of Thomas Cromwell, a commoner, son of an abusive blacksmith father, who rose from a soldier, wool merchant, and trader to become Henry's confidant in the highest circles of the Court. Cromwell is a deeply sympathetic protagonist, a self-taught polymath who's sufferings are sore, but whose compassion and intelligence make him the man for all season which Thomas More, in these same pages, is not. The depth, breadth, and sheer virtuosity of Mantel's prose delivered her the Man Booker Prize for 2009, the most popular winner ever (judging by sales of the book), and makes reading the novel a rare, memorable, even transcendent, delight.