Saturday, February 6, 2010
Wolf Hall - Hilary Mantel
Hilary Mantel's epic novel was the winner of the 2009 Man Booker Prize. On its Amazon page, there are lists of quotes from critics who uniformly hail it as a "feast" and "compelling". The story is set in Tudor England with Henry VIII upon the throne, and in his first marriage to Catherine of Aragon. He is however, without an heir and a certain Anne Boleyn is lurking on the fringes of court.
This was a turbulent time in English history and Thomas Cromwell was a key figure in the King's Court. Mantel's tale is told from Cromwell's perspective as he rises through the ranks at court to become a chief advisor to the King, guiding him through the separation from the church in Rome. Knowing Cromwell's ultimate end makes this tale all the more fascinating. Mantel has apparently promised a sequel which will undoubtedly satisfy the need for full historical disclosure.
I must admit though that I found this book a bit of hard work. It's extremely well-written, but Mantel's use of a disjointed narrative can be oblique. Mantel does a superb job of recreating the intricacies of the Tudor court, magnificently bringing the dominant personae of the time to life on the pages. All in all though, the slow pace and dense wording make the book more of a chore than a pleasure.