I first read about Wolf Hall on the Guardian Books page and, I have to admit, was intrigued because I’ve been caught up in watching The Tudors. Despite studying history as an undergraduate, British history doesn’t roll off my tongue easily. But Henry VIII and Wolsey and Cromwell I know these days.
(I’d like to know Henry VIII better. Can we talk about Jonathan Rhys Meyers?)
But back to Wolf Hall – this article gave enough details without spoiling all the new approaches Mantel may have used to approach Cromwell. And let’s be honest, the ending is no surprise. Though I wonder if Mantel will get to the boiled head on a spike part.
Mantel is a prolific, protean figure who doesn’t fit into many of the established pigeonholes for women writers, and whose output ranges from the French Revolution (A Place of Greater Safety) to her own troubled childhood (Giving Up the Ghost). Maybe this book will win one of the prizes that have been withheld so far. A historian might wonder about the extent to which she makes Cromwell a modern rationalist in Renaissance dress; a critic might wonder if the narrator’s awe at the central character doesn’t sometimes make him seem as self-mythologising as his enemies. But Wolf Hall succeeds on its own terms and then some, both as a non-frothy historical novel and as a display of Mantel’s extraordinary talent. Lyrically yet cleanly and tightly written, solidly imagined yet filled with spooky resonances, and very funny at times, it’s not like much else in contemporary British fiction. A sequel is apparently in the works, and it’s not the least of Mantel’s achievements that the reader finishes this 650-page book wanting more.
(Read the full article here.)
Let’s take a bet – will I see James Frain while I read the book or will Mantel conjure a different picture?