Saturday, April 19, 2014

Historical Fiction: Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

Series: Thomas Cromwell Trilogy #1
Publisher: Fourth Estate
Date: 2009
Format: paperback
Source: purchased used
Read: for Historical Novels course
Pages: 650
Reading time: one week

From GoodReads: Tudor England. Henry VIII is on the throne, but has no heir. Cardinal Wolsey is charged with securing his divorce. Into this atmosphere of distrust comes Thomas Cromwell - a man as ruthlessly ambitious in his wider politics as he is for himself. His reforming agenda is carried out in the grip of a self-interested parliament and a king who fluctuates between romantic passions and murderous rages.

My review: For a novel that has, to quote my history prof, won "all the awards," this sure was disappointing. I just don't see its greatness. I'm sure a lot of it is my fault - like Lincoln, the previous novel read for this class, Wolf Hall is chock-full of dense (but well-researched) political shenanigans that I just really don't care about. Again, it's essentially a novelized form of one brief period of history. I say brief, but for how long this book is, I was always thinking five years had passed instead of only five months.

So maybe if I cared more about political history in general or Tudor history specifically, I would've found Wolf Hall more interesting and a more enjoyable read. But I don't, so I didn't. The religious-y bits about the Reformation and figures within in it who aren't quite as well known as Luther were nice, especially since I'm highly enjoying taking a class on New Religious Movements right now. I also liked seeing Mantel's characterization of Jane Seymour, who has a decidedly meek and obscured background role at this point (despite the book being named after her family's home...still not sure why that title wasn't reserved for the next book). Anyway, while I'm sure this is a fantastic book if you love the Tudors but not the typical romance-and-drama historical fiction that seems to go along with them, it just wasn't my cup of tea, and I don't think I'll continue with the rest of the series.

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