Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Review: Wolf Hall

Summary: England in the 1520s is a heartbeat from disaster. If the king dies without a male heir, the country could be destroyed by civil war. Henry VIII wants to annul his marriage of twenty years and marry Anne Boleyn. The pope and most of Europe oppose him. Into this impasse steps Thomas Cromwell: a wholly original man, a charmer and a bully, both idealist and opportunist, master of deadly intrigue, and implacable in his ambition. -- Picador

I admit that I've had WOLF HALL by Hilary Mantel sitting on my bookshelf for years. I've always wanted to read it because the reviews are incredible and it won the Man Booker Prize; however, it wasn't until the start of the PBS Masterpiece series -- you can read more about that here -- that I finally took the plunge. I get intimidated by long novels, and this one definitely counts as long coming in at over 600.

WOLF HALL tells the story of King Henry VIII's reign through the eyes of Thomas Cromwell, an intriguing man who worked in his court. The novel begins when Cromwell, the son of a blacksmith, was a child; and follows his life as he worked his way up to become King Henry VIII's most valuable advisor. The novel is both incredibly well researched and well written, and I have to say it's one of the most impressive historical fiction books that I've ever read.

I feel as if I can't really add anything to the tons of reviews out there for WOLF HALL -- it's pretty much already been said in much more elegant prose than I could ever write! What I can tell you is that this novel absolutely knocked me off of my feet. I've read quite a few books over the years about King Henry VIII, Katherine of Aragon, and Anne Boleyn; however, never through the eyes of Thomas Cromwell. He's always been a relatively minor (albeit interesting) characters in the novels. Ms. Mantel managed to bring Cromwell to life and he was an amazing character. Having said that, her portrayal of Anne Boleyn was pretty darn good too!

WOLF HALL wasn't an easy read for me -- it was both long and very literary if you get my drift, but there is no doubt that it was a worthwhile read. Even though I knew the story of this famous "love triangle," WOLF HALL was a refreshing take on King Henry III's court. Ms. Mantel's attention to detail was spectacular, and I was blown away by the amount of research she conducted to write this novel.

In addition, I was very impressed with Ms. Mantel's ability to create a complex character in Cromwell. Usually, his character isn't exactly portrayed in a positive light; however, in WOLF HALL, the reader gets a glimpse of his softer side... or at least the love he had for his family. I still believe he was pretty ruthless and manipulative, but I appreciated that he did have another side.

And last but not least, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention what a wonderful writer Ms. Mantel is. I think it's obvious by now that I think she's a great storyteller, but she's also a beautiful writer. I loved her descriptions of the court, the clothes, and more; but I was most impressed with how well she captured the politics and intrigue of King Henry VIII's court. The way she created the dynamics between the various characters was nothing short of brilliant. And even though this book took place during a very tense and serious time in England's history, Ms. Mantel managed to incorporate a great deal of humor into the story!

Overall, WOLF HALL is a brilliant novel and a must-read for fans of historical fiction. Highly recommended!

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel. Make sure you check out my fantastic giveaway for copies of WOLF HALL AND AND BRING UP THE BODIES here.


Beth F said...

I haven't gotten around to reading this either. I think I'm going to do the audio. I've been watching the show though.

bermudaonion said...

I'm intimidated by this one because it's long and it's historical fiction. I'm sure it's brilliant but it's probably not for me.

holdenj said...

I've been watching it, but haven't read it. It does seem like it would be dry in areas.

Karlie said...

Have you watched the show yet?