Wolf Hall

by Hilary Mantel | Literature & Fiction |
ISBN: 9780007230181 Global Overview for this book
Registered by quinnsmom of Hobe Sound, Florida USA on 8/23/2009
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1 journaler for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by quinnsmom from Hobe Sound, Florida USA on Sunday, August 23, 2009
In Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel takes a slice of Tudor history and allows the reader to view it through the eyes of Thomas Cromwell,. who rose through life from his origins as the son of a blacksmith to become the chief minister of King Henry VIII. From his humble origins, he manages to become an important advisor to the ill-fated Cardinal Wolsey, who, as everyone knows, started his downhill slide because of his inability to provide Henry VIII with a Church-sanctioned divorce from Katherine of Aragon. It is, ironically, Wolsey's fall that begins Cromwell's rise. Cromwell survives by his own maxim: "inch by inch forward. Never mind if he calls you an eel or a worm or a snake. Head down, don't provoke him." (4) His fortune is on the ascendant, throughout the story, but as everyone also knows, fortune is fleeting, and especially in this time, largely at the whim of the king.

Mantel gives Cromwell, who is often vilified in many Tudor history accounts, a human face. While he's busy rewriting life at court to suit his majesty and most often, to suit himself and his own desires for reform, Cromwell also is shown to be a family man and a man with a heart who cares about those less fortunate than himself. Cromwell's present is largely defined through his past, and it is through Cromwell's eyes that the reader watches the Tudor world unfold.

Mantel's characterization is excellent -- Anne Boleyn comes off as a cold, calculating queen wanna-be who will stop at nothing to get her way. Mary Boleyn, the queen's former mistress, is a bit Ophelia-like, capturing Cromwell's sympathy. Mantel's Henry (via Cromwell) is a monarch more concerned about the lack of an heir rather than the tyrant or the woman chaser that many books make him out to be. The side players are also well characterized: aside from Cromwell's family and friends, the various dukes, courtiers, and people of the French Court become very human, often with the veneer of royalty and nobility stripped off to reveal crudity, greed, ambition jealousy and fear. Even some of the "common" people, the subjects of Henry VIII, are portrayed here.

Wolf Hall is simply a masterpiece. Even though it comes in at about 651 pages, it goes quickly as the reader gets caught up in the world Mantel so eloquently creates. I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in Henry VIII and that time period. Readers looking for something along the lines of "The Other Boleyn Girl" won't find it here...this is fiction at its finest.

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