Book Reviews

So many books (you know the rest)

Wolf Hall
by Hilary Mantel
Published in 2009 (I finished it on May 22, 2015)

This book has some great stuff. Great imagery. Great interactions. Great dialogue and descriptions. There are many wonderful things about the novel.

It’s just somewhat dull to read.

And tough. One has to accept that every time a questionable masculine pronoun is used, it’s Cromwell. And that technique is rampant. Thoughts and speech aren’t always constrained within quotes either, which can be rather frustrating at times. Either accept that or read another novel.

In effect, it’s a very level experience, with no real builds or climactic moments. Everything is just so darn muted. I guess that’s the downside. The upside is a very introspective look at the time period with historical figures being brought to life with very impressive attention to detail from what people ate and how they dressed to Anne’s extremely, well, bitchy attitude towards anyone she deemed a threat—including her sister Mary. No, she wasn’t deadlier than the sweating sickness, but the woman could cause one’s demise if angered enough.

Cromwell is the key figure and we get a crisp look at his life and how he played the game of politics with Henry VIII and others. He’s also a self-made man, wedging himself into the royal courts, but still being the son of a commoner. No easy task at that time frame and he was constantly reminded of his “low” station in life.

Times were tough. Even when an Englishman wasn’t taking the wrong religious view, life was precarious. One would wake up with a slight headache and be dead by sunset. Cromwell lost his wife and two daughters. Diseases were merciless.

As well, More retains a far less sympatric view. In many writings, he’s often dealt with pity and empathy, and yes, he served his king to a point, but also, his hard-lined stance and views had him burning more than one person quite painfully at the stake. More got off a little easy with the shark axe.

It’s by no means in my all-time favorites, but I do give strong credit to the way Mantel immerses the reader into the period and puts him into Cromwell’s head. I’m glad I read it, even if I could only manage about four to five pages in a session.