Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

Genre: Historical Fiction
Series: #1 in the Thomas Cromwell trilogy
Publisher: Picador
Publication Date: 2010
Pages: 604
Source: purchased

The Short Version:
It’s historical fiction based on the well-known events of Henry VIII’s reign but this time the focus is on Thomas Cromwell.

Why I Read It:
This has been on my shelf for ages. I bought it back when the paperback edition was first released. I started it last year but couldn’t get into it. When I found out that the television production was starting this month I decided I wanted to read it before I watched the series.

The Book:
From the publisher:

In the ruthless arena of King Henry VIII’s court, only one man dares to gamble his life to win the kings favor and ascend to the heights of political power
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.

My Thoughts:
Oh this book. I have a like/dislike relationship with this book. I alternated between wanting to put it down and never look at it again and counting the minutes until I could shut down the work computer and get back to it. I liked it but I think I would have liked it a whole lot more if it had been about 200 pages shorter.

I enjoyed the focus on Thomas Cromwell and his viewpoint and role in the events in the court of Henry VIII as he was trying to set aside Katherine and marry Anne Boleyn.

I’ve read plenty of Tudor Historical Fiction so I’m familiar with the people and the story. I’m glad because this isn’t a book for people who don’t know what’s going on around the main character. Characters are introduced and referred to with little or no background information. For someone without a pretty good knowledge of the events it could be frustrating.

Speaking of frustrating, the pronoun issue. I knew going in that Mantel had made a specific choice to use “He” when referring to Cromwell to avoid the repetition of Cromwell this, Cromwell that but it was tough at first. There were times, particularly at the beginning when I got totally lost as to who in the scene that specific “He” referred to. I took the advice of a reviewer who suggested that if I was unsure to presume that He meant Cromwell.

I liked the book but I wish I had liked the book more. I do plan to continue with the trilogy but I’m going to go with the audio format for Bring Up the Bodies. I’ve heard it’s good and I enjoy Simon Vance as a narrator.

We have watched the first episode of the television series and it was pretty darn good.

3 stars Rating 3/5