Monday, October 15, 2012

Wolf Hall - Book Review

Wolf Hall - Book Review
by Hilary Mantel

Wolf Hall was a challenging read for the 3rd Tuesday Evening Book Club. First, it is 600 pages long. Second, it takes a serious run at rewriting the history of Thomas Cromwell and his nemisis Sir Thomas More (St. Thomas More). Third, it is written in a somewhat unusual style -- Thomas Cromwell is referred to as "he" so often as to be somewhat confusing. Fourth, unless you are a student of Tudor England, the characters can be difficult to keep up with (there are far too many Thomas' and Stephens for example!).

However, I like a challenging read and Wolf Hall certainly fits into that category. Uniformly acclaimed by critics and the winner of the Man Booker Prize in England, Hilary Mantel's first book in a trilogy turns much of what we "know" about Thomas Cromwell on it's head. Wolf Hall visits some of the same territory as The Other Boleyn Girl by Phillipa Gregory, but with much more style, wit and scholarship.

Mantel's Cromwell is witty, kind to his family and supremely loyal. He continues to serve Cardinal Woolsey long after he has lost Henry VIII's favor. After Woolsey's death, Cromwell manages to gain a seat in the Parliment and into Henry's court, where he loyally serves the king. Cromwell works tirelessly to help Henry gain his anulment from Katherine of Aragon so that he has a chance to bear a legitimate son in wedlock with Anne Boleyn.

This Cromwell is compellingly re-imagined by Mantel. While many in our club found this book hard to finish, those who did were rewarded with inspired writing, vividly portrayed characters and an absolutely brutal sense of the times.

Mantel gives an interview after receiving the Man Booker Prize here. Scroll down to Media to see the interview.

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