Wolf Hall

  • Title: Wolf Hall
  • Author: Hilary Mantel
  • Date of Publication: 2009
  • Finished Reading: 2/8/13
  • Pages: 650

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I enjoyed reading this one. The story of Henry the VIII and his wives has been told so frequently that I was a bit skeptical about reading yet another version. Mantel makes it a fresh story by telling it from the perspective of Thomas Cromwell. Her writing style was a bit confusing and difficult to follow at first. She writes in the third person, using the pronoun “he” often without a clear indication of who “he” refers to. After the first dozen pages or so, though, it was much easier to follow.

Mantel’s Cromwell is a charismatic man, accomplished in learning what makes people tick. She  captures the political intrigue of the Tudor period as well as the minute details of Cromwell’s personal life and the people he lives with. I especially liked how she refurbishes Cromwell’s reputation in this novel. In many accounts of the Henry the VIII story, Cromwell comes off as a villain, with Thomas More as a saint. More is portrayed by Mantel as a priggish bigot who had his own intolerant “right” version of Catholicism; pity for you if you didn’t believe it to the letter.

All of the famous characters of the Tudor court are here, with some wonderful minor characters, including Cromwell’s children and wards. Because Mantel writes the story from inside Cromwell’s head, a lot of the historical backstory is left out. I frequently needed to do a bit of research to figure out what was going on. The writing is stunning, and surprisingly funny at times. I found myself laughing out loud at some of the dialogue.

I gave it 4 of 5 stars, it would have been a 5 if it weren’t for the awkward use of “he” that kept me guessing which “he” Mantel meant. I look forward to reading the second installment of the story in Bring Up The Bodies.

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