Saturday, March 26, 2011

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

Book Description:

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 oppose him.  Into this impasse steps Thomas Cromwell:  a wholly original man, a charmer and a bully, both idealist and opportunist, astute in reading people, and 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's Wolf Hall is "a darkly brilliant reimagining of life under Henry VIII....Magnificent" (The Boston Globe).

My Review:

I believe one of the main objectives of any writer of historical fiction is to provide a motive for why a historical person acted as they did; to give them conversations and actions that seem to fit the character as the author has envisioned it.  In that respect, Hilary Mantel has done an excellent job.  Not much is really known about Thomas Cromwell, and Ms Mantel has created a living, breathing, complex human being.  His actions and words throughout the book seem eminently plausible.  I have a much better understanding of the events of that time than I ever did before.  I felt sympathy for nearly every character in the story.

However, Ms Mantel's writing style is abrupt and choppy in the extreme.  I found myself looking forward to finishing the book!  Her point of view is awkward and she rarely refers to Thomas Cromwell by anything other than "he," so I found myself having to read sentences and even whole paragraphs over again to determine if the "he" was still Cromwell or someone else this time.  Very exasperating!

Still, it was a good book, and many others have given it rave reviews, so lovers of historical fiction may like it.


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