Monday, 7 June 2010

Just Finished - Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

Finishing this *ahem* Man Booker Prize Winner has made me happy. Firstly, it was a bloody good book, which dragged me in from the word go. Secondly, it is HUGE. I was given the hardback edition for Christmas and it weighs a tonne. The Man Bag has struggled and my thigh is bruised where its vicious corner bounces against my leg. Being bigger than your average book, it's taken me around a month to finish, but it was worth it - worth the time, the effort and the physical pain .

It follows the life of Thomas Cromwell, who was an adviser to Henry VIII. The Tudors are a dynasty I studied at school, and I've always found their reign an interesting period. It was a time of massive political upheaval and in England, among other places, of previously unimaginable religious change too. With the basic knowledge I have, I had heard of quite a few of the characters before, but I've been used to seeing them depicted very differently. For example, I went to a Roman Catholic secondary school where there were four form groups in each year, each named after an English Martyr. Thomas More and John Fisher were among these- chosen for their extraordinary virtue and unwavering faith, and also crop up in Wolf Hall. In the book you're shown events from a dramatically different angle; More especially becomes a particularly unlikable character, while Cromwell and Cardinal Wolsey are painted in an entirely different, favourable light - which, I believe, is the opposite to what they normally receive.

While the history of the time is well-known, the viewpoint from which it's witnessed here is completely different to anything I've read before, and had me hooked from the beginning. Mantel takes a story that has been told a hundred times before, but makes you appreciate the characters as people, with clear personalities, rather than cardboard cut-out historical figures. She takes the history, dusts it down and delivers it in a way that entertains throughout. Possibly my favourite this year...


  1. Wow! That's an accomplishment. Congrats!

    From the way you describe it...huge, weighed a ton, bigger than the average book...ugh!!! I wonder if i would finished it that fast.

    Well, the longest book i've read is "Thorn Birds" by Colleen McCullough, it's a thick one and it's old. I have to take to much care while reading. I finished it for 2 months i think.

    I am fascinated with stories of reigns and dynasty too but not too much politics for me hahaha!

  2. First! (Again?)

    Anyway, how many pages does that book have? By your description of physical pain, I assume it has, like, 10 million pages. Am I right?

    Okay, Edit: I clicked preview and suddenly, I'm no longer the first commenter! (Damn!)


  3. Sounds good. I've been eyeing it at the store for a few weeks now; but abstaining for the book binging. I've put myself on a strict embargo until after my thesis is done.

    And I read all the books I already bought and haven't started on as yet.

    Must say, Cardinal Wolsey did a fair bit around peace negotiations that were far ahead of its time. And if History class serves me right, he did a fair bit of legal reform too.

    Have you been watching The Tudors? It's horribly inaccurate and rather tarted up, but it's a good watch anyway.


  4. Wow - that's a good review! I might have to pick it up this summer! It has a good cover as well:) I also like the Tudors (love the TV-series, though that might not be as correct, though...), you English have such fascinating history!

  5. @ Mishieru - you've got the right idea, it was heavy in more than one way - because it weighed a tonne and was pretty political. It was good though, so it wasn't too much of an effort, you know?

    @ Gnetch - haha! You're speedy commenting crown has fallen! I'm joking, I think you're still the most consistently fast. Anyway, you're spot on - ten million pages, to be exact (672 really).

    @ Risha - top marks for dedication in enforcing your embargo. I can't even force myself out of bed! Cardinal Wolsey was a top man, in some ways, in other ways not so much, but I think my Catholic education maybe painted him in a deliberately bad light - what with him opposing Katharine of Aragon - it seems strange that this should happen in this day and age but I remember thinking he was bad news at school.

    And the Tudors - raunchfest. I was going to mention it in my post, but didn't want to sound like a pervert. It is a good watch - perhaps imagining the characters to look like they do in the series made this book more accessible to me ;)

  6. @ Alexandra - I'm sure Norwegian history is pretty fascinating too. And, you lucky people have your own mythology - we've got none of that :( I like the cover too - in fact if anyone does read this I'd be interested in what you think about the title - I thought it was a really odd choice.

  7. Raunchfest may be the most perfect word ever used in connection with The Tudors.

    JRM is hot and everything, but bloody hell that Henry Cavill! I can barely contain my swooning.