Evelyn Axon - a medium by trade - and her half-wit daughter Muriel have become a social problem. Barricaded in their once-respectable house, they live amid festering rubbish, unhealthy smells - and secrets. They completely baffle Isabel Field, the social worker assigned to help them. But Isabel is only the most recent in a long line of people that find the Axons impossible. Meanwhile, Isabel has her own problems: a married lover, Colin. He is a history teacher to unresponsive children and father to a passel of his own horrible kids. With all this to worry about, how can Isabel even begin to understand what is going on in the Axon household? When Evelyn finally moves to defend Muriel, and Muriel, in turn, acts to protect herself, the results are by turns hilarious and terrifying.
England in the 1520s is a heartbeat from disaster. If the king dies without a male heir, the country could be destroyed by civil war. Henry VIII wants to annul his marriage of twenty years, and marry Anne Boleyn. The pope and most of Europe opposes him. The quest for the king's freedom destroys his adviser, the brilliant Cardinal Wolsey, and leaves a power vacuum.
Into this impasse steps Thomas Cromwell. Cromwell is a wholly original man, a charmer and a bully, both idealist and opportunist, astute in reading people and a demon of energy: he is also a consummate politician, hardened by his personal losses, implacable in his ambition. But Henry is volatile: one day tender, one day murderous. Cromwell helps him break the opposition, but what will be the price of his triumph?
In inimitable style, Hilary Mantel presents a picture of a half-made society on the cusp of change, where individuals fight or embrace their fate with passion and courage. With a vast array of characters, overflowing with incident, the novel re-creates an era when the personal and political are separated by a hairbreadth, where success brings unlimited power but a single failure means death.
Ralph and Anna Eldred are an exemplary couple, devoting themselves to doing good. Thirty years ago as missionaries in Africa, the worst that could happen did. Shattered by their encounter with inexplicable evil, they returned to England, never to speak of it again. But when Ralph falls into an affair, Anna finds no forgiveness in her heart, and thirty years of repressed rage and grief explode, destroying not only a marriage but also their love, their faith, and everything they thought they were.