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Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
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May 04, 10

really liked it
Read from April 22 to May 04, 2010

I was close to giving this book five stars, but the culminating political issue at the end dragged on a bit too long. It's about King Henry VIII and his split from the Church of Rome, but the story and perspective belong to Thomas Cromwell--a commoner who eventually becomes the King's Lord Chancellor. If a writer is going to take on this age old story, then he or she has to deliver a new angle or fresh characterizations, because we all know how the story ends. And I think Hilary Mantel really accomplishes that.

Not much is known about Thomas Cromwell and I'm sure a lot of creative license is taken, but I really like the portrait that evolves--he is a fascinating character. Also, both Anne Boleyn and Thomas More's characters in this novel are interesting--Anne is not a victim, but a shrewd and calculating woman who gets in over her head (and then loses it--ha, ha--but not in the book. It ends before that moment in time, but you know it's coming.) And Thomas More is not a saint or martyr, but a brutal man who loves the public eye but treats his family and household like dirt.

So I recommend this book for its characters and the glimpse it offers of such a politically unstable and violent era in England's history, but I also offer a few warnings: do not Google "burning at the stake" because you don't want to know, and there is a small smattering of language--these men lived in sixteenth-century London and don't talk like Mr. Darcy. And the title is a clever tease--you don't know why it's called Wolf Hall (Jane Seymour's family home) until the very last sentence . . .
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