Wolf Hall

Posted by by Janet Dooley on 4 January 2012 in category in Book Reviews - 0 0 Comments

Okay, I am late to this party, but I am finally reading Hilary Mantel's Man Booker award-winning novel, Wolf Hall. And yes, I am enjoying it.

But first my confessions. I thought this book was about Henry VI's reign. I have no idea why...bad intel, I guess. And I will excuse myself by saying I have been absorbed in raising my young children for the last several years and had no idea there was a Booker award-winning history of the Tudors out there for me to inhale. Keeping the frazzled mother excuse in mind, I lacked the proper concentration at first to realize this story was being told by Thomas Cromwell (I still find myself at times asking, "Who the heck is talking?"). I will also say, that as someone who's worked as a book editor, I cringe at the idea of having had this manuscript handed to me. I mean, it is NOT conventional.

But once I figured out the quirks of author Hilary Mantel's stylings (okay, maybe I'm still figuring them out), I do find myself lost in the narrative. And the whole Tudor world as I know it has been turned upside down. Thomas More is the villian? Cromwell was a family man? King Henry just wanted someone to talk to? Who knew.

The plot is familiar, we all know the story of the Tudors, after all, but the characters are all turned on their heads. We get used to the roles history has cast people in...More was kind and generous (and so wonderful to women), Wolsey was ruthless and ambitious, Cromwell was a two-faced opportunitst. But Mantel makes us question those roles. It's never a good idea to accept "official PR" and Wolf Hall reminds us of that. History should always be questioned...who told the story, what did they have to gain, why did they want us to think that...being able to force those questions is one of the hallmarks of a great historical novel. 

I'm still barely half way through the novel (remember...busy mother) but I do look forward each night to reading more about this world from Thomas Cromwell's point of view. The supporting cast finally gets the starring role. I love it. And I'm already looking forward to Hilary Mantel's follow-up novel, Bring Up the Bones, about Anne Boleyn's rise to the throne. But I'm getting ahead of myself...

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