Wolf Hall – full of wolves

I’ve always been pretty interested in the Tudors (but somehow completely missed the TV series of it) so picked up Hilary Mantel’s ‘Wolf Hall’ with barely hidden glee as I knew it was going to be a novel of Henry VIII’s reign and specifically, about Thomas Cromwell and his role as the King’s advisor.  However, I have to admit to being somewhat disappointed with this book.  Yes, it has plenty of backstabbing and blackmail, corruption and coercion; not to mention scandal, treason and executions galore:

‘Anne’s out for bloody murder.  She wants the cardinal’s guts in a dish to feed her spaniels, and his limbs nailed over the city gates of York.’

A perfect bloodthirsty, ‘gritty’ novel you’d think but it just seemed to me to lack that flow and apart from Cromwell himself, I didn’t particularly care much about any of the other characters.  I suppose it’s unavoidable in an historic novel set in a King’s court but to me, there were just too many ‘little’ characters (and way too many Thomases, Marys and Annes!  Even Mantel has a little joke about this, “He hears her calling, Thomas, Thomas… a name that will bring half the house out from their very beds.”)  I understand that names could not have been changed but I do think the author used too many ‘he’s’ in her writing and sometimes a couple of paragraphs would go by before you knew for certain which’ he’ we were reading about and which Thomas/Henry/John/Anne/Mary was speaking,  at that time.

There were certainly elements of the book that I did enjoy.  I learnt a great deal and had my eyes opened to just how cruel this period of time was.  They did however enjoy their material possession, and seemed pretty generous in the sharing of it, and I had fun reading about their banquets and food but have to say that there was little they ate that made me wish I had it in my fridge!

I’ll leave you with two quotes from the book; one which highlights the ‘thinking’ of the time (and Hilary Mantel’s lovely prose) and one which I just had to add as I found it quite humorous (you’ll know which one is which!):

“I got to Hell these nights,’ she says. ‘Master Lucifer shows me a chair.  It is carved of human bones and padded with cushions of flame.’

‘Is it for me?’

‘Bless you, no.  For the king.”

And the second one:

‘The king slips into his mouth an aniseed comfit, and snaps down on it.  ‘Already there are too many book in the world.  There are more every day.  One man cannot hope to read them all.’

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Joanne
    Jan 30, 2012 @ 00:31:16

    I loved this book when I read it, what a shame you were disappointed with it. Hilary Mantel is an author I want to read more of, all her books seem so different.


  2. BryOak
    Feb 04, 2012 @ 07:48:09

    I know part 2 of the Thomas Cromwell story is out this year but I doubt I’ll be be rushing out to buy a copy… but I am very intrigued by some of her other books so will definitely give those a try as I liked her writing style on the whole. Which ones have you read so far?


  3. Joanne
    Feb 05, 2012 @ 22:57:35

    I’ve read Fludd and Eight Months on Gazzah Street, but both of them a very long time ago. I think that I might re-read Wolf Hall this year in preparation for the sequel, and I also want to read A Place of Greater Safety.


  4. BryOak
    Feb 07, 2012 @ 22:09:34

    Not heard of the ‘Eight Months book…’ Interesting title!


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