Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (2009)

This is one of those books that I don't think I'm going to be able to write anything interesting about, and not because I didn't like the book. I loved this book.  I thought at first I would hate it - the narrative point of view is quite odd, and my initial reaction was "I will never get used to this, it's too confusing, too strange, I hate modern literature..." But like being drowned in molasses, the book oozed into all of my pores and openings, slowly I became trapped in its amber.  The narrative point of view is "third person limited" and Thomas Cromwell, this third person limited, is almost always referred to as He.  Rather than annoy me, what that did is made you aware of Cromwell's power and influence.  Of course at a certain time in Tudor history, if you said "He said this" or "He is coming" that was probably referred to one of two people - the King or Cromwell.  No names necessary.  That also had the power of making you see the plot even more clearly through one person's eyes, like you were inside his head, watching all this, and listening to his thoughts.

One might assume that the Tudor tree is all out of sap; that a new book about the Tudors couldn't possibly tell you anything of interest.  The Tudor story has been told for six hundred years in various forms, from Shakespeare to The Other Boleyn Girl, but Hilary Mantel has proved there is much to be learned and more to tell.

This is certainly a tale about the corruption of power, and although Thomas Cromwell is a sympathetic character (at least I thought so, I think Mantel wants you to think so too) there is a shift between the Cromwell at the beginning of the book and the powerful courtier at the end.

I want to read Bring Up the Bodies, although I think I want to try to listen to it on audio, which is further envelope me (a good audio book does that to me).  But I'm giving Mantel a break; I need something lighter (so why I chose E.M. Forster's A Passage to India is beyond me; that is hardly lighter, although perhaps less dense).

Loved  the characterization of Thomas More.

Wolf Hall (Thomas Cromwell, #1)Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book was like being drowned in maple syrup; it oozes into every pore and opening, slowly but surely, and once you get over the initial shock you just sink into it.  This is not an easy read; it's dense and dark,and the point of view is quite odd.  Thomas Cromwell is the Third Person Limited, and is almost always referred to as simply He.  That makes sense if you think about the world of the Tudor court at this time; there were only two "He"s,and when you said "He" everyone knew you meant one of two people:  the King, or Thomas Cromwell.  You might have thought that the Tudor tree was all of sap; after all writers have been writing about the Tudors for six hundred years, from Shakespeare to The Other Boleyn Girl.  But brilliant Hilary Mantel found a way to write a remarkable, interesting novel with fully realized characters.  The plot was lived out six centuries ago, but she injected new life into through the eyes and ears and brain of Cromwell, our flawed hero.  I'm almost afraid to move on to the second book in the trilogy, because I can't imagine it being any better than this one.

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