I have never read anything by Mantel before. In fact, I was somewhat disinclined to pick up this book, especially since it beat out The Children's Book. Philippa Gregory tries to adjust the picture of Mary Boleyn (whose reputation in the historical record is as a loose woman). Gregory takes it too far; Mary is more sinned against than sinning and is so stupid that you want to smack her. Mantel does not do this. Showing us Cromwell's cold exterior makes Cromwell more human. Writing the story in present tense allows the reader to see the history as it happens as opposed to a historical fan fiction that some writers create.
Mantel does not just set out to save Cromwell, but she does something for Mary Boleyn as well. She presents Mary as a slut, but a sympathetic one with spirit. It was nice.Some critics have taken issue with the way that Mantel presents SIR THOMAS MORE. To them I ask, "Have you read any biographies about the dude?" or his Utopia? Mantel nails More.It is true that some of the children, minor characters, are not well drawn and sometimes the reader gets confused. Thankfully, there is a player's guide in the front of the book.
In terms of Anne Boleyn, Mantel does a good job. The book is concerned about Henry's desire to divorce Katherine and marry Anne. Of the three in that triangle, Henry and Anne are the ones with the most screen time. While Anne is petty, Cromwell likes her. She is not totally demonized here. It is also important to note a beautiful scene of Cromwell watching Henry and Anne read a letter together. Wonderful.Henry VIII and Queen (or Princess Dowager) Katherine are more shadowy, but this somehow seems fitting. Considering the King's ability to imitate a weathervane in terms of friendship, this is hardy surprising.
I can see why this won the Booker.