Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Wolf Hall

I haven't done a book review for a while, because I have been reading the epic novel by Hilary Mantel: Wolf Hall. It won the Man Booker prize in 2009. It took me about three weeks, when I am used to reading a book in a week. At a few points, I was ready to give up. The pace was slow, some of the paragraphs were nearly a page long.  It was also confusing, because the writer kept referring to Thomas Cromwell (the main character) as 'he', even when there were other male characters in the scene. So, I was always having to reread sections to work out you said what, and what Cromwell actually did and didn't do.

   After taking about 300 pages to build up, I did actually like Cromwell a lot. He was a great character. I think I like him because he was modern for his time, and a realist. He was also highly intelligent, and a hard worker. He was fair, and compassionate.  He's also never completely loyal to anyone but himself, and he's not afraid to lie and cheat to get what he wants.
   The other reason I kept reading was that I know and love the story of King Henry VIII. This is the fourth novel about Henry that I have read. I have also watched the TV series: the Tudors. The story of Henry has never been told from a secondary perspective around Cromwell. It portrayed Henry in a different light, too, because of the experiences Cromwell had lived and where he was coming from.
   I think the next novel I should read about Henry will be A Man for All Seasons. Apparently there are some stark contrasts between how the characters are portrayed in each of these books. Sir Thomas More irritated me in this novel. But that is hardly surprising, since I have very little time for extremists. And that's what I consider More to be.
   Another interesting thing about this novel was that it was written in the present tense. It is unique to find  novel that is written this way, especially one that flows well, because I had to have it pointed out to me before I even noticed.
   Readers who are not familiar with King Henry's story, and the people in his court, may find it difficult to keep track of the characters. Other interesting peripheral characters are also introduced, which breathed fresh life into the story.
   The most disappointing thing for me was that I felt the book finished in the wrong place. I thought it was called Wolf Hall because it would continue through until Jane Seymour became queen. The may that Mantel has portrayed Jane Seymour makes me wonder how she ever got noticed by Henry. Answering that question was one of the reasons I kept reading, but not to have that question answered has left me feeling unsatisfied.
   Obviously, if we don't even get to the point when Jane Seymour is queen, then we don't get to Cromwell's lutheran queen, and the beginning of his end. Does that mean that there is room for a sequel to Mantel's epic? I hope not: I can't cope with putting this much effort into reading.

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