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The Mirror & the Light: Exclusive Edition - The Wolf Hall Trilogy 3 (Hardback)
  • The Mirror & the Light: Exclusive Edition - The Wolf Hall Trilogy 3 (Hardback)
  • The Mirror & the Light: Exclusive Edition - The Wolf Hall Trilogy 3 (Hardback)
  • The Mirror & the Light: Exclusive Edition - The Wolf Hall Trilogy 3 (Hardback)
  • The Mirror & the Light: Exclusive Edition - The Wolf Hall Trilogy 3 (Hardback)
  • The Mirror & the Light: Exclusive Edition - The Wolf Hall Trilogy 3 (Hardback)
  • The Mirror & the Light: Exclusive Edition - The Wolf Hall Trilogy 3 (Hardback)
  • The Mirror & the Light: Exclusive Edition - The Wolf Hall Trilogy 3 (Hardback)
The Mirror & the Light: Exclusive Edition - The Wolf Hall Trilogy 3 (Hardback) The Mirror & the Light: Exclusive Edition - The Wolf Hall Trilogy 3 (Hardback) The Mirror & the Light: Exclusive Edition - The Wolf Hall Trilogy 3 (Hardback) The Mirror & the Light: Exclusive Edition - The Wolf Hall Trilogy 3 (Hardback) The Mirror & the Light: Exclusive Edition - The Wolf Hall Trilogy 3 (Hardback) The Mirror & the Light: Exclusive Edition - The Wolf Hall Trilogy 3 (Hardback)

The Mirror & the Light: Exclusive Edition - The Wolf Hall Trilogy 3 (Hardback)

Hardback 912 Pages
Published: 05/03/2020

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Waterstones Says

The triumphant conclusion to a modern classic, The Mirror & the Light carries the reader spellbound through the final, tragic era of Thomas Cromwell’s eventful life. 

Exclusive Edition contains exclusive extra material, including an essay by Hilary Mantel about the historical settings of the Wolf Hall trilogy.

Longlisted for the Booker Prize 2020

Shortlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction 2020

Shortlisted for the British Book Awards Fiction Book of the Year 2021

A BBC Radio 4 Book at Bedtime

"This book has been the greatest challenge of my writing life, and the most rewarding; I hope and trust my readers will find it has been worth the wait.” - Hilary Mantel

They have eaten his banquet and now they will want to sweep him out with the rushes and the bones. But this was his table: he runs on the top of it, among the broken meats. Let them try to pull him down. They will find him armoured, they will find him entrenched, they will find him stuck like a limpet to the future. Bring up the Bodies

The higher you climb, the further you fall.

Widely regarded as two of the greatest works of historical fiction, Hilary Mantel’s peerless, Booker Prize-winning novels Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies have dazzlingly charted the rising arc of mercurial Tudor plotter, politician and power broker Thomas Cromwell. Now, in The Mirror & the Light she brings her trilogy to its final, thrilling conclusion.

From a bloodied and tormented child on the rough-and-ready streets of Putney, to the service of the country’s most rich and powerful, Thomas Cromwell has ascended to the highest echelons of Henry VIII’s tumultuous court. He has survived the fall of Cardinal Wolsey and inveigled his way into the King’s confidence, overseen the overthrow of two queens and taken revenge on those who betrayed his former master.

Now 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 and the 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 and influential figures of his time. Told with immediacy and pace, Mantel’s novels immerse readers in her Tudor world; rich with the sights, smells and textures of 16th century England. No other novelist is so successful in conjuring the intrigue, in-fighting and complex machinations of the machine of courtly politics. In her hands these novels form an unrivalled picture of royalty and common experience, duty and desire, conflict and loyalty. But the crowning glory of the trilogy is Cromwell himself, portrayed with passion, pathos and energy as politician, fixer, husband, father, subject and as a man who both defied and defined his age.

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
ISBN: 9780008366704
Number of pages: 912
Weight: 270 g
Dimensions: 240 x 159 mm
Edition: Special edition


'So, the trilogy is complete and it is magnificent… A novel of epic proportions, every bit as thrilling, propulsive, dark comic, and stupendously intelligent as its predecessors. A masterpiece that will keep yielding its riches.' - The Guardian

'An epic work of historical fiction… We are lucky to have it.' - The Telegraph

'Ambitious, compassionate, clear-eyed, yet emotional, passionate and pragmatic, The Mirror and the Light lays down a marker for historical fiction that will set the standard for generations to come.' - The i

'An amazing feat of sustained achievement.' - Daily Mail

'One of the slightly unfortunate effects of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall novels is that they make 99 per cent of contemporary literary fiction feel utterly pale and bloodless by comparison… The biggest publishing event of 2020… This is rich, full-bodied fiction. Indeed, it might well be the best of the trilogy simply because there is more of it, a treasure on every page.' - The Times

'It feels redundant to state that The Mirror and the Light is a masterpiece. With this trilogy, Mantel has redefined what the historical novel is capable of; she has given it muscle and sinew, enlarged its scope, and created a prose style that is lyrical and colloquial, at once faithful to its time and entirely recognisable to us. Taken together, her Cromwell novels are, for my money, the greatest English novels of this century. Someone give the Booker Prize judges the rest of the year off.' - The Observer

'Mantel’s style remains exhilarating... It is a conflation of expansiveness and precision, refined across her career, which has no peer… the rewards are unrivalled – it is a book not read, but lived. I can only say that on closing the book I wept as I’ve not wept over a novel since I was a child not yet inured to fiction’s cunning.' - The Telegraph

'What The Mirror and the Light offers — even more than the two previous volumes — is engulfing total sensory immersion in a world as completely vanished as Henry’s Nonsuch Palace, materialised through feats of voice, vision, touch and taste. Voice is paramount since it needs to be immediately accessible without jarring anachronism. I have no idea what vocal (and pensive) models Mantel chose for Cromwell but in Montaigne’s Essays and Erasmus she has writing styles that are often close to utterance and are exactly poised between modern bluntness and Renaissance self-interrogation.' - Financial Times

'A stunning conclusion to one of the greatest trilogies of our times.' - The Independent

Praise for Wolf Hall:

'Dizzyingly, dazzlingly good . . . Hugely exciting, packed full of power struggles and political machinations, but also delightfully poetic, vivid in image and phrase. A rich and subtle wonder' Daily Mail

'Beautifully written and terrifying fiction. She makes that world so concrete you can smell the rain-drenched wool cloaks and feel the sharp fibres of rushes underfoot. It's a world of marvels' Daily Telegraph

'As soon as I opened this book I was gripped. I read it almost non-stop. When I did have to put it down, I was full of regret the story was over, a regret I still feel' The Times

Praise for Bring Up the Bodies:

'The greatest modern English prose writer writing today' Peter Stothard, Chairman of the 2012 Man Booker Prize

'In another league. This ongoing story of Henry VIII's right-hand man is the finest piece of historical fiction I have ever read . . . A staggering achievement' Sunday Telegraph

'Darkly magnificent . . . the finest work of historical fiction in contemporary literature' Washington Post

Hilary Mantel: The Waterstones Interview - Wolf Hall Trilogy


As the Wolf Hall trilogy reaches its epic conclusion with The Mirror and the Light we sat down with Hilary Mantel to talk about how the series began, how the books have been influenced by their adaptations and how she feels now that the final book is making its way into readers' hands.


W: Hilary it is a huge pleasure to speak to you here in your home as we reach the conclusion of the Wolf Hall trilogy, I want, if I can, to take you back to the beginning because it's very easy to think of Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies as being very established in their form and their success. I can see two Booker Prizes up there and of course many years ago when you first started writing them none of this was assured. And so I want to start with one of the most obvious questions which is why Thomas Cromwell? Why did you want to write about him?

HM: I think once you become an author, well, probably even before you become an author, you have your antennae out for subjects that will keep you interested, keep the reader intrigued, that will last. What everyone's in search of is the inexhaustible subject really. And I thought of writing about Thomas Cromwell a long, long time ago but wasn't ready to do it at that stage because I knew it would be an enormous project. But I think what engaged me was the untold story. That here you have a man who is central to some of the most famous episodes in English history but when you look for him in fiction, in drama, where is he? There's a kind of blank and why is this? And also then turning to history, why he had such a bad press. And that in itself intrigued me, the black reputation. Is it deserved, is there another way of looking at those events. And those questions were all in my mind when I eventually began. I didn't know at that stage I would be writing a trilogy. It was a long process of exploration before I actually began to write.

W: That sort of historical research that you must have done before sort of putting pen to paper if you like, it takes me actually to a question I want to ask you which was about the man and about your portrait of him which is notably, as people mentioned when the books were published, more sympathetic than some previous biographies. And I suppose even his portrait by Holbein. You sort of see that face and he has this, as is remarked in the book, that he looks like a murderer and somebody says 'Did you not know that?' And you sort of paint a portrait of this man and I wondered whether that more sympathetic portrayal came from the historical research or was it more to do with your instinct as a novelist in fleshing him out?

HM: It's a question of perspective really. Because the story is told looking over Thomas Cromwell's shoulder and it's very much concerned with his evolving perceptions of the world and it is his story. Not Thomas More's story or Anne Boleyn's story. If it were told from their point of view the events would look very different. I think that has proved a little bit hard, particularly for historians to understand, that a novelist doesn't set out to be neutral. They're telling a story from inside their character. But having said that, once I engaged with a topic I found that most of the biographical work on Cromwell was biased, it was inaccurate, it was perfunctory. And what had happened is that mistakes had got in there and they've been rolled forward from one historian to another, no one saying stop, let's go back to the record, let's identify the gaps and let's see what we find with a fresh eye. Now, last year Diarmaird MacCulloch brought out a wonderful biography of Thomas Cromwell where he has gone back over all the material and though he remains a very difficult subject for a biographer I think that is a triumph of history writing. And a great pleasure for me to see some of those errors worked through, worked out of the system, hopefully never to bounce back. But you can't be sure of that. It takes a long, long time to change perceptions of a historical figure. And I think the interesting thing is that the academic assessment of Thomas Cromwell and the popular historian's assessment diverged a whole generation ago. But academic historians, while seeing Cromwell's importance, are not particularly concerned with what he was like as a person. Whereas the popular historians, the dramatists and the novelists, insofar as they engage with him at all, have been satisfied to keep rolling forward this portrait of a caricature villain.

W: You mentioned the fact that we are very much on his shoulder and one of the other joys for the reader is the fact that you have this present tense narration and that is so distinctive in these books but I wonder whether that was always your intention. When you sat down to write did you know that that was how you're going to write it or did it come through the process of writing?

HM: I can go back very vividly to the moment of beginning the trilogy, to writing those first few paragraphs. And with any novel what you want is to hear its note, its tone. And if you hear that truly from the beginning in a sense you can't be knocked off course. There may be all sorts of complications and difficulties but as long as you can keep hearing that true note. So the question I was asking myself is what is this novel going to sound like. But actually as soon as I began writing, from the first sentence, it became visual. First of all I was hearing the voice of Cromwell's father shouting 'So now get up!' at this fifteen year old boy who's been kicked, is bleeding, has fallen on the cobbles. There's the voice in the air above him but also I could see as if through his narrow vision his father's boot on the cobble, his own blood. And so the question was then when is this happening? Now, in the present tense. Because he thinks he's going to die. He thinks ten seconds and I'm out. And if so, this is no case for leisurely retrospection. This is a case of are we going to survive our next few breaths. And therefore it commanded the present tense, there didn't seem to be any choice. Nor was there any choice of viewpoint because who's looking at this? Young Cromwell is looking at it. We're right behind his eyes.

W: The question I think when you're reading is what is motivating this man? And there's a point at which he says 'I'm just trying to survive the week', it's a question of survival. When you're dealing with that level of power at which he's at. Did you feel that you were feeling he had different motivations at different times or is there a single force that's sort of pushing him along. It feels very much like it's escaping his father in the first book, maybe it's about furthering himself in the second book and maybe something else entirely in the third book.

HM: I think when he says oh I'm just trying to get through the week, don't take that too seriously. That's his disclaimer. Don't come at me with anything more complex for the minute. But as another character says, 'Cromwell always has a plan.' And as we know his plans come to fruition. So yes he always has his eye on the long term but at the same time there is always a problem, a challenge, adversity to be overcome in the next five minutes. He can see the big picture but there are moments in all three books when survival is the imperative and it's as narrow as that. Moments of terrible peril where he realises everything is in equipoise and one breath can destroy him. And I think his whole project and this is why he's such a fascinating subject: it's unlikely. That a man from Cromwell's background could rise to such a position of power, not just in England but in Europe. He's a man with a vision but a man who has to sustain that in the face of the teeth of opposition on an hourly basis.

W: It's a fascinating study of power and of course power has provided the narrative drive for some incredibly successful TV series, we think about The Sopranos or Succession, other plays and novels. Having dealt with it so closely yourself through these three books what have you learned about what motivates people to seek power or maybe those who don't seek it as well. The way that the machinations of power work, what have you learnt?

HM: Well I'm just now working on a theatre version. I'm at the very beginning of that process. And there's a moment in the script where the situation concerns Henry's daughter, the Princess Mary. And people are saying to Cromwell well you have to believe Mary when she says she doesn't want to become queen, she has no ambition to rule. And Cromwell says 'We all want to rule.' And from his point of view, his personality set up, that is absolutely true. But I suppose I think it's true. If you take power in its widest sense. We all need our little meed of power to survive and prosper, even within the ambit of our own families our little world when we are children, none of us are strangers to the struggle for advantage. But having said that although the challenges, if you look at it in the narrow sense, I think you're talking about politics, then I think the challenges are different these days. The Tudors didn't have to contend with media scrutiny, they didn't have to account to the general public for their actions. But at the same time the consequences of a mistake were calamitous. You played with your life, not your job. And I think there may be a sort of politician's mentality that is necessary for survival and success that not all of us share in that. I think such people often have a character that may be quite deep and complex but it's not in itself introspective because they can't dwell on the consequences of their actions. It's always next thing, next thing. Being ever ready to confront that is an interesting challenge for a writer because you're concerned with the inner workings of someone who by definition is turned to the outside world. So there's a limit to how much Cromwell knows himself. And I hope that as the third book proceeds, the reader will be saying yes, you tell me that, Cromwell, but I know better because I know you from the inside.

W: With the work that you've done adapting the books for the stage with Mike Poulton and with the actor Ben Miles, I wondered whether any of that had actually fed back into the writing of the third book. Have you found that the Cromwell that you're writing in The Mirror and the Light has been influenced by the work that you've seen on stage?Particularly with the work you've done with Ben Miles embodying that character.

HM: I think the rehearsal process, it was something that fascinated me. I've always thought of writing as an inherently dramatic activity. In that before you write a scene, and I always do think in scenes, you prepare and you prepare and there you stand nervously in the wings of it for perhaps quite some time and then you step on into the light. And it may not go the way you planned. I do find writing hard work and hard on the nerves because for me it is such an involving activity. It's not simply a cerebral activity, it uses up the whole of you. And you have to be prepared to be surprised and to allow yourself to go with the process. So I found a lot of congruence between what the actors were doing and the way I think of my own work. And Ben Miles has evolved the character not simply through the storyline but through different iterations in different theatres with a script that was also evolving. And I found the insights that he would have, I would think, yes, I will have that for book three. And there are moments when the narrative loops back to tell us about things we already know from Wolf Hall or Bring up the Bodies but with his spin on them. So we now see or recognise some aspect of them that we didn't get first time around. The viewpoint has just shifted a little and we're being told slightly more. As if almost the camera angle shifted. So I found that a fascinating process because it meant that all three books were in play at any one time. Rather than being a continuation, the third book becomes a process of continual overlapping, enwrapping, every thread being held in tension.

W: The Mirror and The Light is a hugely satisfying conclusion to this trilogy. I wonder if we could look at the title first. It's a phrase that Cromwell uses to describe the king and I wondered if you could tell us about the relevance of that phrase and why it's the right title for this book.

HM: The Mirror and The Light is a phrase that Cromwell himself used to describe Henry's kingship and it's in a letter he wrote to Thomas Wyatt when Wyatt was abroad as an ambassador. And when I came across that phrase it seemed to me to sum up the project if you like because what the third book does is to hold up a mirror to what's gone before and cast new light on what's gone before. So whilst already a metaphor it became a different order of metaphor and its weird beauty struck me. And the way it came to me that it was the right title was I was in East Sussex which became very much a Cromwell part of the country, on the Downs there at sunset one day and saw the sun against a shimmering, silver, clear sky. And the phrase came back to me. So not only did I take it for the book title but I also described a scene of Cromwell and his son Gregory riding across the Downs on the way to their new properties and thus wrapped it into the book.

W: The great thing about writing from history is that we don't have to worry about spoilers because everyone knows what's going to happen. But what can readers expect from this final book? It must be quite something for you to hand over, if you like, to the reader the final part of this trilogy.

HM: What the third book does is to take us through the final four years of Thomas Cromwell's life, taking up the story at the moment of Anne Boleyn's execution and watching his triumphant rise and his successive overcoming of obstacles and enemies to the point where the king creates him Earl of Essex and his son Gregory has married into the royal family and he's reached a position of unprecedented power. And I try to show how whilst in the earlier books the narrative may work to a crisis, we now have a crisis every day. The pressure as well as the glory is intensified in the third book and then Cromwell's fall is very... it's quick, it's mysterious. None of the existing theories cover it. It can't be covered. There are things that we will never understand. The processes of government and administration are there on the record. But the process of politics is a hidden process. And the reader will, I think, come to their own conclusions. I'm not trying to point to a certain event in Conwell's life and say that's where he went wrong. Or he could have done this or this differently. I think that's far too simple a reading. But I'm hoping to open up the story so that the reader can see the full complexity of what was going on. And I am in certain respects cutting against the orthodox account, not because I know better, I don't know better, but because I think differently. And that is because I'm entering into a dramatic process with the characters rather than sitting in judgment like God looking down on it all. Or a historian looking with the advantage of hindsight.

W: Just to finish off we've spoken a bit about what the readers might get from reading the book I wonder how you feel as the creator of these books now that you have reached the conclusion of the trilogy. Is it relief, is it trepidation, worry? How do you feel now that this book is complete and heading into readers' hands?

HM: To me the whole thing is still live because the stage version and the TV version are still to come. And I tend to think of it all as one enormous book. Obviously it's not presented to the reader in that way, but for me it's been a 15-year project during which life happens, you change; everything changes in 15 years. This has been the one thread through my life but I imagine that thread always will be there. Once you become engaged with a historical era or a particular set of characters they don't just vanish from your head. I think that's probably more true for a novelist than for a historian. You don't retire, you know, or if you do your characters retire with you they always live in your head. So I don't feel as if I'm done with Cromwell or that I'm bereaved or that the trilogy is behind me. And I think as it goes out to the reader again it gets a new life. A book isn't complete till it's read and there are as many interpretations as there are readers out there.

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“An epic achievement”

Before Christmas 2019 I hadn't read a single book in the Wolf Hall trilogy. I'm not a massive fan of historical fiction and despite many people imploring me to give them a go (and all the Booker Prizes and... More

Hardback edition
Helpful? Upvote 104

“Well Worth the Wait!”

After 12 years of anticipation, what a pleasure it is to once again sink into the world of Tudor Court behind the eyes of Thomas Cromwell; the mastermind of so much that has become the bedrock of politics and religion... More

Hardback edition
Helpful? Upvote 91

“The final instalment”

The size of this book might be slightly daunting. Hilary Mantel writes in a style all of her own. Wolf Hall is not for the faint hearted. I struggled with the first book in this series but found perseverance was the... More

Hardback edition
2 similar books recommended
Helpful? Upvote 90

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