Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

Wolf Hall

Wolf Hall is a fictional look at Thomas Cromwell using historical facts. I found the book difficult to read. There are many characters who share similar names (1) and functions. The book has a light conversational tone and features a lot of dialog. This adds a difficulty as the speakers are not always clearly identified, so the reader (me) loses track of who is speaking and about what. This must be a personal failing my part as the book won the 2009 Man Booker Prize.
I also had trouble defining the book’s theme until near the end. It answers the question how did a poor boy who barely escaped his father’s blows end up being the 2nd most powerful man in England. The answer didn’t require 532 pages. The answer was hard work, detailed notes, timing and a lot patience. (3) The same set of attributes I required to finish reading this book.
The book ends with the death Thomas More- rather predictable. If I were writing “Wolf Hall” I would start here and follow Cromwell to his own death on similar charges: Heresy and Treason. Both Thomases had the lion by the tail. More died by denying Henry VIII his desire, and Cromwell by giving Henry what he wanted. It is an interesting three-way power struggle between Parliament, the Church, and the Crown. By the time of the Reformation, The Church has fallen into disrepute (2). The Crown and Parliament conspire to take control of their lands, wealth, and power. Something only a strong island nation could attempt.

  1. He hears Alice running upstairs. He hears her calling, Thomas, Thomas… It is a name that will bring half the house out, tumbling from their beside prayers, from their very beds: yes, are you looking for me? (page 407)
  2. In the street he sees a priest carrying the host, no doubt to a dying Londoner; the passers-by uncover their heads and kneel, but a boy leans out of an upper window and jeers, “Show us your Christ-is-Risen. Show us your Jack-in-the-Box.” He glances up; the boy’s face, before it vanishes, is vivid with rage. (page 422)
  3. And at the same time, the word is out: help Cromwell and he will help you. Be loyal, be diligent, be intelligent on his behalf; you will come into a reward. Those who commit their service to him will be promoted and protected. He is a good friend and master; this is said of him everywhere. (page 479)

532 pages

About craigmaas

I do a little web design work and support a couple web sites and blogs. My primary focus is lighting and energy consulting where I use a number of computer tools to help my customer find ways of saving money and improving their work environment. See my web site for more information: www.effectiveconcepts.net
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2 Responses to Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

  1. craigmaas says:

    I read this book in three sessions. Although it appears I had abandoned the book. I was pretty sure that I would finish it. I found the book interesting on a number of levels even as I was struggling with it. The book seemed like it got much better starting with Part V. I might even recommend starting with Part V and returning to Parts I-IV after finishing the book.

    November 6, 2010 – yes, I jumped back in after giving up on the book in September. I’m having the same problem – is there a point to this book?)

    November 9, 2010 – Before I picked it up again I read the Wikipedia entry for the book, for Thomas Cromwell, and watched “A Man For A Seasons” on Netflix. Hopefully this will help.)

    November 27, 2010 – I’m currently battling my way through Wolf Hall. Hilary and I have declared a truce at page 343 (Part V). I need to build up my forces before I battle on to the end. I wonder if watching “The Tudors” would be helpful. I think not, as much of the difficulty lies with Mantel’s writing style and themes.

    January 21, 2011 – I’m currently battling my way through Wolf Hall

    January 22, 2011 – I’ve taken up the King’s standard and will fight my way to the end for God and Country.

  2. craigmaas says:

    As you’ll notice all my quotes are from the tail end of the book. I didn’t make any notes until Part V. By page 400, I knew what I wanted to say about Wolf Hall and copied quotes to illustrate those ideas.

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