Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
A long read, one of those books that is average from start to finish and perfect for frequently picking up and putting down. It was a fine companion in the occasional available minutes during the busy month leading up to my wedding day. I haven’t been immune to the recent Tudors craze, but even with knowledge of this history it was still a bit difficult to grasp what every event meant – perhaps one more Tudors-related piece of popular culture and I will have pinned down the entire story.
The narrative style is interesting without being great, but at least it’s something different. And speaking of something different, it was a pleasant surprise to read a novel about Thomas Cromwell where he is still alive at the end.
England in the 1520s is a heartbeat from disaster. If the king dies without a male hair, 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. The quest for the king’s freedom destroys his adviser, the brilliant Cardinal Wolsey, and leaves a power vacuum and a deadlock.
Into this impasse steps Thomas Cromwell. The son of a brutal blacksmith, a political genius, a briber, a bully and a charmer, Cromwell has broken all the rules of a rigid society in his ascent to power, and is preparing to break some more. Rising from personal disaster – the loss of his young family and of Wolsey, his beloved patron – he picks his way deftly through a court where “man is wolf to man.” Pitting himself against parliament, the political establishment and the papacy, he is prepared to reshape England to his own and Henry’s desires.