Maximum Shelf: THE MIRROR & THE LIGHT (3/18/20)

Today’s Shelf Awareness Maximum Shelf pick is the epic conclusion to Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall trilogy, THE MIRROR & THE LIGHT.

With THE MIRROR & THE LIGHT, Hilary Mantel brings to a triumphant close the trilogy she began with her peerless, Booker Prize-winning novels, WOLF HALL and BRING UP THE BODIES. She traces the final years of Thomas Cromwell, the boy from nowhere who climbs to the heights of power, offering a defining portrait of predator and prey, of a ferocious contest between present and past, between royal will and a common man’s vision: of a modern nation making itself through conflict, passion and courage.

The story begins in May 1536: Anne Boleyn is dead, decapitated in the space of a heartbeat by a hired French executioner. As her remains are bundled into oblivion, Cromwell breakfasts with the victors. The blacksmith’s son from Putney emerges from the spring’s bloodbath to continue his climb to power and wealth, while his formidable master, Henry VIII, settles to short-lived happiness with his third queen, Jane Seymour.

Cromwell, a man with only his wits to rely on, has no great family to back him, no private army. Despite rebellion at home, traitors plotting abroad and the threat of invasion testing Henry’s regime to the breaking point, Cromwell’s robust imagination sees a new country in the mirror of the future. All of England lies at his feet, ripe for innovation and religious reform. But as fortune’s wheel turns, Cromwell’s enemies are gathering in the shadows. The inevitable question remains: how long can anyone survive under Henry’s cruel and capricious gaze?

Eagerly awaited and eight years in the making, THE MIRROR & THE LIGHT completes Cromwell’s journey from self-made man to one of the most feared, influential figures of his time. Portrayed by Mantel with pathos and terrific energy, Cromwell is as complex as he is unforgettable: a politician and a fixer, a husband and a father, a man who both defied and defined his age.

“Mantel’s avid fans will find the ambition and skill brought to bear in this final volume astounding. King Henry VIII and his court have been much written about, yet Mantel’s interpretation is distinct in a thousand ways. Cromwell is an unforgettable character, and some readers might find it bittersweet to reach the final pages of his story. As with the best novels, THE MIRROR & THE LIGHT leaves behind the complicated, sad-happy feeling of coming to the end of a treasured experience.”–Shelf Awareness

See the full summary, review, and interview with Hilary Mantel on

THE MIRROR & THE LIGHT by Hilary Mantel, ISBN 9780805096606, on sale now

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.