The Mirror & the Light (Wolf Hall Trilogy, 3)
By Hilary Mantel
Named a best book of 2020 by The New York Times, The Washington Post, TIME, The Guardian, and many more
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.
"The Wolf Hall trilogy is probably the greatest historical fiction accomplishment of the past decade." ―The New York Times Book Review
"The Mirror & the Light is the triumphant capstone to Mantel’s trilogy on Thomas Cromwell, the son of a blacksmith who rose to become the consigliere of Henry VIII...The world is blotted out as you are enveloped in the sweep of a story rich with conquest, conspiracy and mazy human psychology…. Mantel is often grouped with writers of historical fiction, [but] the more apt, and useful, comparison might be with Robert Caro, the biographer of Robert Moses and Lyndon Johnson, the great anatomizer of political power." ―Parul Sehgal, The New York Times
"The searing finale of Hilary Mantel’s magnificent trilogy...Mantel is clear-eyed yet compassionate in depicting her coldly calculating, covertly idealistic protagonist and the equally complex people he encounters in his rise and fall from power. Dense with resonant metaphors and alive with discomfiting ideas, The Mirror & the Light provides a fittingly Shakespearean resolution to Mantel’s magisterial work." ―The Washington Post
"Wolf Hall, a decade ago, was a sensational character study that electrified an often-visited slice of history. The Mirror & the Light marks a triumphant end to a spellbinding story." ―NPR
"Cromwell [has] a depth at once Shakespearean and modernist. He could be Hamlet, or the title character of one of Freud’s case studies...The dissolution of Cromwell coincides with his unmooring in time... One moment he is sucked into his childhood; the next, he is hurled into the sphere of the angels." ― Judith Shulevitz, The Atlantic
"Breathtaking...The plot here is shaped as meticulously as any thriller…. With this trilogy, Mantel has redefined what the historical novel is capable of...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." ―Stephanie Merritt, The Guardian