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Excerpt from Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Wolf Hall

A Novel

by Hilary Mantel

Wolf Hall
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  • First Published:
    Oct 2009, 560 pages
    Paperback:
    Sep 2010, 592 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Judy Krueger

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Print Excerpt


He comes downstairs. Morgan says cheerily, "You’re looking well, considering."

The truth is about Morgan Williams— and he doesn’t like him any the less for it— the truth is, this idea he has that one day he’ll beat up his father-in- law, it’s solely in his mind. In fact, he’s frightened of Walter, like a good many people in Putney— and, for that matter, Mortlake and Wimbledon.

He says, "I’m on my way, then."

Kat says, "You have to stay tonight. You know the second day is the worst."

"Who’s he going to hit when I’m gone?"

"Not our affair," Kat says. "Bet is married and got out of it, thank God."

Morgan Williams says, "If Walter was my father, I tell you, I’d take to the road." He waits. "As it happens, we’ve gathered some ready money."

A pause.

"I’ll pay you back."

Morgan says, laughing, relieved, "And how will you do that, Tom?"

He doesn’t know. Breathing is difficult, but that doesn’t mean anything, it’s only because of the clotting inside his nose. It doesn’t seem to be broken; he touches it, speculatively, and Kat says, careful, this is a clean apron. She’s smiling a pained smile, she doesn’t want him to go, and yet she’s not going to contradict Morgan Williams, is she? The Williamses are big people, in Putney, in Wimbledon. Morgan dotes on her; he reminds her she’s got girls to do the baking and mind the brewing, why doesn’t she sit upstairs sewing like a lady, and praying for his success when he goes off to London to do a few deals in his town coat? Twice a day she could sweep through the Pegasus in a good dress and set in order anything that’s wrong: that’s his idea. And though as far as he can see she works as hard as ever she did when she was a child, he can see how she might like it, that Morgan would exhort her to sit down and be a lady.

"I’ll pay you back," he says. "I might go and be a soldier. I could send you a fraction of my pay and I might get loot."

Morgan says, "But there isn’t a war."

"There’ll be one somewhere," Kat says.

"Or I could be a ship’s boy. But, you know, Bella— do you think I should go back for her? She was screaming. He had her shut up."

"So she wouldn’t nip his toes?" Morgan says. He’s satirical about Bella.

"I’d like her to come away with me."

"I’ve heard of a ship’s cat. Not of a ship’s dog."

"She’s very small."

"She’ll not pass for a cat." Morgan laughs. "Anyway, you’re too big all round for a ship’s boy. They have to run up the rigging like little monkeys— have you ever seen a monkey, Tom? Soldier is more like it. Be honest, like father like son— you weren’t last in line when God gave out fists."

"Right," Kat said. "Shall we see if we understand this? One day my brother Tom goes out fighting. As punishment, his father creeps up behind and hits him with a whatever, but heavy, and probably sharp, and then, when he falls down, almost takes out his eye, exerts himself to kick in his ribs, beats him with a plank of wood that stands ready to hand, knocks in his face so that if I were not his own sister I’d barely recognize him: and my husband says, the answer to this, Thomas, is go for a soldier, go and find somebody you don’t know, take out his eye and kick in his ribs, actually kill him, I suppose, and get paid for it."

"May as well," Morgan says, "as go fighting by the river, without profit to anybody. Look at him— if it were up to me, I’d have a war just to employ him."

Morgan takes out his purse. He puts down coins: chink, chink, chink, with enticing slowness.

He touches his cheekbone. It is bruised, intact: but so cold.

"Listen," Kat says, "we grew up here, there’s probably people that would help Tom out—"

Excerpted from Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. Copyright © 2009 by Hilary Mantel. Excerpted by permission of Henry Holt and Company. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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