[Lesley] There are some books that when I finish them I can’t believe it took me so long to read them — Wolf Hall is at the top of that list right now. It has been on my radar since it won the Man Booker Prize in 2009 but for some reason I never picked it up until December when I downloaded it on audio using OverDrive.
What a truly excellent book. It is masterfully written, mainly from the perspective of Thomas Cromwell, whom I knew next to nothing about. It takes place during the reign of King Henry VIII as his marriage to Katherine is ending because of his desire to marry Anne Boleyn. Cromwell is by nature a calm, even-headed, intelligent man who is not prone to drama, emotional reactions, or impulse all of which sets him apart from nearly everyone else who surrounds him including the King, Cardinal Wolsey, the Noblemen (and women), the Boleyns, and some of his own family. The way the story is told however gives us insight into all that is going on inside Cromwell and as a result there is painted a complex, layered portrait of a time and place that transcends the usual focus on all of the scandal. I feel like I learned much about the history of the time, but even more I feel like I came to understand some of what England felt like (though only a little from a commoner’s perspective, even though that was Cromwell’s background) and how the personalities and events (plague, threats of war, alliances, marriages, holidays, religion) impacted people’s decisions and lives.
The sequel, Bring Up the Bodies, was also excellent though a few of the (in my opinion, unwarranted) criticisms of the first book seem to have changed the way some things were written in the second, which was a little irritating. Still, a small thing in such an excellent story. I can’t wait to read the third book (when will it be published, when??) which will pick up after the King’s favor has turned to Jane Seymour and Anne Boleyn has been taken to the Tower.