Madhuri's Reviews > Wolf Hall

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
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's review
Feb 18, 10

bookshelves: booker, history
Read from January 29 to February 18, 2010

It is after a long time that I have enjoyed reading good historical fiction. Mantel's tale is interesting and very well written. Through the eyes of Thomas Cromwell, a man of low stature who rose to power through his dexterity and cunning, she has described the time of Henry VII's rule, and his separation with the Roman church. Her descriptions of those times are graphic, and by using an opportunistic, un-philosophical but observant and central narrator, she has managed to pack in a lot of detail. Her writing is pleasurable, and every once in a while you encounter phrases which are beautiful.
What I didn't like about the book is its length. In a historical fiction, reference material is usually resplendent, and the merit of the author is in selection of which incidents to deal with in the book. Something which Mantel seems to have faltered at. At 650 pages, here book is daunting, and gets tedious when similar incidents with similar morals keep re-appearing. The number of characters are numerous and sometimes it is very difficult to keep track. Especially so if you do your reading at the end of the day!
The other problem is almost a lack of thought in the book. A fallout of a king with Rome is a major event, one with several theological, political aspects. But at no point do the characters seem to dwell on these issues, which seems a bit surprising. Surely, a parliament could not have made the king head of church without facing dilemmas. Though a lot of court proceedings are mentioned - the arguments in neither are presented in the text. Having looked forward to such discussions while picking up the book, I was a little disappointed with the straight jacket narration.

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