Newest Review: ... book really helpful as I watched the BBC dramatisation of the White Queen, Henry VIII's grandmother.) This story recounts the meteoric ... more
A challenging novel but worth the read
Wolf Hall - Hilary Mantel
Member Name: darren55
Wolf Hall - Hilary Mantel
Advantages: Portraying a complex man
Disadvantages: Awkward grammar
This book is written in a cryptic manner, the author has a tendency to confuse the reader with the use or lack of use of speech marks and the reader is never quite sure whose speaking in some of the sentences. However, this style does give the book a feeling of mystery and intrigue we never fully feel that we have all the facts at our disposal and that there are events and documents just out of our sights. Thomas Cromwell is the main character in the book and he's a character who is easy to dislike but is set up here as a man who must do his kings bidding above all else.
As with all Tudor novels, the star in the universe is the king, here we have a young thoughtful Henry far removed from the fat psychotic individual in latter decades. He wants a male heir and Catherine his wife is getting too old to have children, so the answer divorce here on a spurious pretext that she married his brother before he died and the bible says that a women who has lain with two brothers is unclean. Along comes Anne Boleyn and now Thomas must facilitate the divorce of one queen and the coronation of another after the death of his friend Cardinal Wolsey. This is told with the use of anecdotes, stories, rumours and facts we engage with the master manipulator in how he shifts one queen away from the spheres of power and supplants another in her place. There is a tinge of sadness though as Thomas likes the queen and he remembers all her lost male children who failed to live beyond a few weeks.
The joy in this book is the time spent in Thomas' company in particular his acid wit and sceptical nature, he has an eye for detail and a mind for miniature so nothing escapes him and he has a view on everything. We have some truly sumptuous descriptions of the minor Tudor figures at the times, all of Anne's relations are picked apart and given a tough time, Thomas More is cast as a villainous jailer and a heretic, Anne's legs as a metaphor for the French wars etc.
All in all, a complex and challenging books not one to be read lightly and certainly a compelling tale was it good enough to be a Man Booker prize winner? Well it has a lot of the hallmarks of being such a book, a bit highhanded more literature than story and a book to be treated with respect. It's successor has also been made the Man Booker winner and I suspect the final book in the trilogy will be a contender when it comes out.
Summary: A complex and dynamic novel about a complex man