Wolf Hall was the winner of the 2009 Man Booker Prize, and one I’ve heard everyone who loves historical fiction RAVE about it. So when I got the urge to dig into a big old book, I ended up picking this one, because my fascination with the Tudors was just too much to resist! But I will start off by saying this is not an “easy-to-read” novel, it requires attention, but is so fascinating.
It’s the 1520’s and on, and Tudor England is in the throes of its own chaos. Henry VIII has begun the arduous feat of annulling his marriage to Katherine of Aragon, due to the fact that he hasn’t been born a living male heir. He is ending his marriage of 20 years, to marry the elusive Anne Boleyn. Although the Pope, England, and Europe is opposing this marriage, he leans on Thomas Cromwell to help him scheme his plan into action. Cromwell, who was known as a family man, lawyer, an entrepeneur, and a bully, slowly helps him work his plan into action.
You all know that I have an undying love for historical fiction, and Wolf Hall is probably one of the most researched, epic novels I’ve read in this genre. I had sat with my computer, or phone while I read this book, and looked SO many things up throughout it. From the terrible torture methods, to the plotting characters, Hilary Mantel nailed it. I cannot even imagine how long his novel must have taken her to write.
A great thing to know and use in this novel, is the Cast of Characters at the start of the book, because let me tell you, there are a whole lot of Thomas’, Henry’s, and Johane’s! The storyline tends to follow a linear path, with some little side trips along the way. Mantel tells us the past of Cromwell through these little side trips, which start to make the reader realize why he may have turned out to be the scheming character he was. Historically Cromwell has been seen as a villain, but Mantel chose to make him into the hero of this novel. This is an interesting point of view, and she does such a great job convincing you that he was a visionary who could be counted on to get the job done.
On the day of the trial, rivers breach their banks; the Thames itself rises, bubbling like some river in Hell, and washes its flotsam over the quays.
Lastly, I’d be remise if I didn’t mention the character that was not in the official cast… the setting! The descriptions of the city, and the river were just so well done you felt like you needed to pour yourself a cup of tea to get the dampness out of your bones.
Until next time, happy reading!