Picture Perfect month presents us with the opportunity to showcase the cover of one of the best books published in many of our lifetimes. And it’s #tbt, which means that we can root around in the archives all the way back to…2009.
Wolf Hall was the first of Hilary Mantel’s mould-breaking historical novels about Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII’s great minister. Mantel made Man Booker prize history by becoming the first woman and the first British writer to win the literary award twice, winning for both Wolf Hall and its sequel, Bring Up The Bodies (2012).
Receiving the second price, Mantel joked: ‘You wait 20 years for a Booker prize and then two come along at once’.
‘Lock Cromwell in a deep dungeon in the morning,’ says Thomas More, ‘and when you come back that night he’ll be sitting on a plush cushion eating larks’ tongues, and all the gaolers will owe him money.’
England, the 1520s. Henry VIII is on the throne, but has no heir. Cardinal Wolsey is his chief advisor, charged with securing the divorce the pope refuses to grant. Into this atmosphere of distrust and need comes Thomas Cromwell, first as Wolsey’s clerk, and later his successor.
Cromwell is a wholly original man: the son of a brutal blacksmith, a political genius, a briber, a charmer, a bully, a man with a delicate and deadly expertise in manipulating people and events. Ruthless in pursuit of his own interests, he is as ambitious in his wider politics as he is for himself. His reforming agenda is carried out in the grip of a self-interested parliament and a king who fluctuates between romantic passions and murderous rages.
From one of our finest living writers, Wolf Hall is that very rare thing: a truly great English novel, one that explores the intersection of individual psychology and wider politics. With a vast array of characters, and richly overflowing with incident, it peels back history to show us Tudor England as a half-made society, moulding itself with great passion and suffering and courage.
The original artwork for the cover of Wolf Hall was sketched and painted by illustrator Andy Bridge, commissioned by 4th Estate to produce an image to lend a ‘craft’ feel to the design.
Andy paints onto wood or metal with household emulsion and print using stencils, often scratching into the surface of the paint, scraping away layers, removing the newness of the image and revealing traces of paint beneath. He also work in three dimensions, producing boxed collages and pieces inspired by all kinds of ephemera.
As well as book jackets Andy’s commissions have varied from film sets (Martha Meet Frank, Daniel and Lawrence), shop window displays in Japan for Anya Hindmarch, original artwork for the largest cruise ships in the world, MS Allure- and Oasis Of The Seas, owned by Royal Caribbean, to wine labels for Domaine Saint Rose in France.
Read the cover reveal for A Wild Swan by Michael Cunningham.
And Heartbeats and Pencil Lines: The Making of A Graphic Novel.
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