Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Review time!

The other day I finished Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. I’d heard a lot of great things about this book, but before I started reading I didn’t really know anything about it other than that it was about Henry VIII and Thomas Cromwell. When I first began reading, I had a little bit of difficulty getting into it and identifying who, exactly, was telling the story. It was interesting enough to keep me reading though, and I’m really glad that I did because once I got into it, I really got into it. I pretty much stopped reading all the other books I was in the middle of and only read Wolf Hall until I was finished.

The book is really phenomenal. The story of Henry VIII and the withdrawal of England from the Pope and the Catholic Church isn’t exactly obscure, but Mantel tells it like a new story. The characters come alive in completely new and engaging ways. 

Most of my previous reading about Henry VIII and that general period in history comes from history books and TV specials and reading A Man for All Seasons by Robert Bolt. In Bolt’s play, Thomas More is the protagonist and Cromwell is the base, evil villain. Mantel’s Cromwell isn’t perfect, and though she portrays More as a flawed man, he by no means epitomizes evil in the way a novel with Cromwell as protagonist might be expected to. Getting over the ideas of Cromwell as ambitious and backstabbing (and just plain evil) and More as devout and honorable (if not a bit stubborn) that I had in my head from previous reading did not take nearly as long as I expected it to. I was quickly drawn into the story and the lives of the various characters as Mantel portrayed them.

As a side note, Wolf Hall is the first book I read from the public library since I went back. Still no sign of devious library ninjas…

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