THOMAS CROMWELLRead about the other entries on the list.
Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel
Wolf Hall, Book One in Hilary Mantel’s prize-sweeping Thomas Cromwell trilogy (she’s picked up a Booker, the National Book Critic Circle Award for fiction, and a billion other nominations), opens with Walter Cromwell beating the living shit out of Thomas, his son, who goes on to change the course of history by masterminding Henry VIII’s annulment to Katherine of Aragon and paving the way for Anne Boleyn to claim the queenship of England. We never have to ask why Thomas is so loyal to Cardinal Wolsey and then, later, Henry VIII—his character is revealed in that stomach-turning opening moment. Thomas is fatherless. No matter how he longs for one (he later becomes quite a good parent himself), he’ll always be waiting for the next kick.
Wolf Hall made Hermione Norris's 6 best books list, John Mullan's list of ten of the best cardinals in literature, the Barnes & Noble Review's list of five books on dangerous minds and Lev Grossman's list of the top ten fiction books of 2009, and is one of Geraldine Brooks's favorite works of historical fiction; Matt Beynon Rees called it "[s]imply the best historical novel for many, many years."