Saturday, January 26, 2013

Wolf Hall

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

This is a book of historical fiction about Thomas Cromwell.

During the reign of King Henry VIII, Thomas Cromwell began working for Bishop Woolsey.  After Woolsey's fall from favor and then his death, Cromwell began to work for the King.  He was a man of extremely low birth who had become educated depsite his upbringing.  He was a soldier, a baker, a book keeper, an attorney, an importer and a finder of things, people and information.  He spoke many languages and his past was a mystery.  The mystery of his life was something that Cromwell used to his advantage.  Others made assumptions and he made no effort to correct them.  Because of this, he was a much feared man.  He was able to melt into a background and be virtually invisible while he gleaned information from what he heard and especially what he saw.  Cromwell was a great reader of people and used the information from watching to his advantage and the advantage of those he worked for.

This book takes us through King Henry's battle to annul his marriage to Katherine of Arragon, his courtship of Anne Boleyn and a bit past the birth of his daughter Elizabeth.  At the end of the book, relations between Henry and Anne are strained.  She had had several miscarriages and failed to produce the male heir that she promised. We meet Jane Seymour and find that her family estate is titled Wolf Hall.  Her presence in the life of Anne Boleyn and the random meetings with Thomas Cromwell are intriguing teases.  I'm not sure that it made sense to name the book Wolf Hall though.

I really enjoyed this book.  It seems well researched with regards to the King, the Boleyns as well as Thomas Cromwell and Cardinal Woolsey.  As always, I enjoy the results of research done with regards to how people lived.  The day to day lives of people and what they ate, wore, did for work and how their houses were laid out.  This book is medium sized at 672 pages.  I felt like the author used her time wisely.  The story really didn't drag on other than the fact that an inordinately long time was spent with Anne dragging her feet and Henry wrestling with the whole religious community but that really did take a long time so it was historically accurate.

Mantel continues the saga with her next book Bring Up the Bodies.

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