Hilary Mantel’s latest novel first entered my radar through an issue of BookPage, a monthly magazine made available for free from my local library. From the momemt I saw the cover (H8 may not be displayed prominently on the cover, but you can’t slip him by me) and read the review, this book shot up to the tippity top of my “I want, I want” list. When it finally arrived from Powell’s, it felt as precious in my hands as gold. I love it when a book gives me that feeling.
After finishing the novel in December, I haven’t been able to wrap my head around writing a proper review. Instead, I’m just going to give you my overall thoughts about this novel:
- After starting this book, the darndest thing happened – I found myself liking Thomas Cromwell. Despite all that I have read about Henry VIII‘s reign and his specific place in that history, I was actually fond of him. I could not believe it. Mantel did not gloss over who he was, where he came from, or what he did. What she did so brilliantly was give him a life, one that was worth protecting.
- I did not read this novel straight through. I don’t think I could have. It took me a little under a month to complete it. I loved Mantel’s writing, but it requires a great deal of concentration. When my attention drifted even a little, I found I had to reread paragraphs to figure out if the “he” in question was Cromwell or another man. When I picked the novel back up, I never had any difficulty remembering where I was and moving forward.
- It was nice to read about this time in Henry VIII’s history from a male perspective. When much of what I’ve read to date is from the female perspective, the “men of the time” have been much more one-sided than they were in Wolf Hall. There is a great deal in this novel about Cromwell’s relationship with Thomas Moore and I found it interesting to view Moore from Cromwell’s point of view. I often found myself comparing his Moore to the Moore of Vanora Bennett’s Portrait on an Unknown Woman.
- It would not suggest choosing this novel as one’s first introduction to Tudor history. Despite a rather exhaustive cast of characters at the beginning of the novel, I attribute much of my enjoyment of this novel to the fact that I have a decent overall knowledge of the life of Henry VIII and the politics of his court. Without that, I could see myself getting bogged down.
- In equal parts I enjoyed this novel and truly respect it for its craftsmanship. However, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to everyone. This is a novel for those who love the Tudor time period, are interested in the Medieval English law, or are interested in the growth of Protestantism in England. I think those without that background or types of interest would struggle with it. This isn’t a book I would pick up and read just because it’s a Man Booker Prize winner.
- I purchased this book in hardcover. It is, however, available on the Kindle. I’m not sure how I would have liked the reading on the Kindle, though. I can’t really put the reasons why into words. It just wasn’t “that” kind of a book.
Have you read Wolf Hall? What did you think?