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Wolf Hall (Thomas Cromwell, #1)
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BRITISH MONARCHY/ROYAL HOUSES > 1. AL - WOLF HALL - PART I - CHAPTER 1 - 3 AND PART II - CHAPTER 1 (1 - 64) (02/21/11 - 02/27/11) ~ No spoilers, please

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message 1: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bentley | 31599 comments Mod
Here is the introduction - thanks to Garret.

Hello,

During the week of Feb 21 – Feb 27 we are reading Part I Chapters 1-3 and Part II Chpt 1 pp 1-64.

This thread will discuss the following:

Week 1 – Feb 21 – Feb 27 -> Part I Chapter 1 Across the Narrow Sea, Putney 1500, Chapter II Paternity 1527, Chapter III At Austin Friars 1527 and Part II Chapter I Visitation 1529

Remember, these weekly non spoiler threads are just that - non spoiler. There are many other threads where "spoiler information" can be placed including the glossary and any of the other supplemental threads.

We will open up a thread for each week's reading. Please make sure to post in the particular thread dedicated to those specific chapters and page numbers to avoid spoilers. We will also open up supplemental threads as we have done for other spotlighted reads.

We kicked off this book on February 21. We look forward to your participation. Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other noted on line booksellers do have copies of the book and shipment can be expedited. The book can also be obtained easily at your local library, on iTunes for the ipad, etc. However, be careful, some audible formats are abridged and not unabridged.

There is still time remaining to obtain the book and get started. There is no rush and we are thrilled to have you join us. It is never too late to get started and/or to post.

Welcome,

Garret


Here is a link to the complete table of contents and syllabus thread:

http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/4...

TO SEE ALL WEEK'S THREADS SELECT VIEW ALL

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel Hilary MantelHilary Mantel

This is a kick-off book for the Audiobook folder.

Remember this is a non spoiler thread.


Garret (ggannuch) Week 1

Here we go…
We first encounter Cromwell as a 15 y.o. about to strike out on his own to escape an abusive father. We meet his sister and her husband. Then after a 27 year gap we pick up with Cromwell as a clerk in the service of Cardinal Wolsey. Cromwell is now a lawyer, married and with children. King Henry’s wish to annul his marriage consumes Wolsey’s thoughts. Then in the first chapter of Part II Wolsey’s demise begins as he has failed his king. Cromwell is portrayed as loyal to Wolsey during this period.

Although you may not be an expert on Tudor history, everyone has been exposed to the basics through school, books, TV, movies. It will be interesting to see how Mantel’s characters compare with your previous conceptions of Cromwell, More, and Wolsey.

What are your initial impressions and thoughts?


message 3: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bentley | 31599 comments Mod
I see you opened the thread; good for you.

At first, the gap did create some confusion for me; but since one figures out fast enough who they are discussing; you put two and two together.

Feel free Garret to add the elements of history to the glossary and here; I think a lot of folks would appreciate being brought up to speed and maybe comparing the actual history with the representations made in the book.

I have been trying to figure out the relationships between Cromwell and More in the book thus far and also the relationship to Stephen??

What are your thoughts on the above.

Overall, I think the book and the audio are dynamite.


Garret (ggannuch) Bentley wrote: "I see you opened the thread; good for you.

At first, the gap did create some confusion for me; but since one figures out fast enough who they are discussing; you put two and two together.

Feel..."


We meet Stephen Gardiner as Cardinal Thomas Wolsey's secretary. He has been described as basically a conservative Catholic, despite being obliged to recognize the religious independence of King Henry VIII. He supported the royal supremacy but was a thorough opponent of the Reformation from a doctrinal point of view. He did not approve of King Henry's general treatment of the church during the ascendancy of Cromwell.

More about Stephen will be posted under the glossary.

I think that we are in for more about More and Cromwell in future chapters.


Garret (ggannuch) Mantel makes Cromwell the victim of an abusive father. What do you think about this choice? Her basis is court records that show his father involved in civil suits, criminal charges for assault and drunkenness, and yearly fines for watering the beer from his brewery.

Mantel then gives us a 27 year gap. How does this affect your perception of Cromwell?

Little is known about Cromwell’s early life. During this time, he apparently became a mercenary, and later shows up in northern Italy working for the merchant banks. What we learn about those years in this novel is given to us very obliquely. For example, we learn early on that he speaks several languages.


message 6: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bentley | 31599 comments Mod
I think that was the part that was confusing. We were left to try to fill in the blanks. How did Cromwell become involved with the church when we last left him to go off to be a soldier in France. I guess if this is the fictional part of the historical fiction then it bothers me a bit. Many times folks do not distinguish between historical fiction and fact; and if he was not an abusive father; many folks after reading or listening to this book; will still be convinced that he actually is or was. His father could have been a quick handed alcoholic who still loved his family. But we probably will never know.

Yes, I wondered that myself; how did he pick up the various languages, etc. What changed him for the better or worse?


Jeffrey (JWhitsitt) | 23 comments Garret wrote: "Mantel makes Cromwell the victim of an abusive father. What do you think about this choice? Her basis is court records that show his father involved in civil suits, criminal charges for assault a..."

Making him the victim of an abusive father intimates that the abuse greatly influenced what kind of man he became. Thus far that is not apparent. The only allusion so far is the lines "he kissed the infant's fluffy skull and said, I shall be as tender to you as my father was not to me. For what's the point of breeding children, if each generation does not improve on what went before?"

As for the 27 year gap, I actually prefer an author to subtly, cleverly work in the details of a person or setting rather than just do it in one large info dump.

Good read so far!


Garret (ggannuch) Jeffrey wrote: "Garret wrote: "Mantel makes Cromwell the victim of an abusive father. What do you think about this choice? Her basis is court records that show his father involved in civil suits, criminal charge..."

Thanks for the comments Jeffrey.

I would agree with your point about cleverly working in the details, which is clearly what Mantel is doing. She is not going to hit us over the head with the enormous amount of historical research she has done, as is sometimes the case in historical fiction.

The 27 year gap reflects the true historical gap in knowledge and adds an air of mystery about Cromwell. At least that is the effect it had on me!


Garret (ggannuch) What do you think of our narrator? See the glossary for some info on him in a future post.

I was glad to have him read the few passages in ye old 16th century English. And I am glad the whole book is not written in that style although it is a fascinating topic itself.

When asked about her use of modern speech in the book by the Boston Globe, Mantel replied, “I dislike pastiche; it attracts attention to the language only. I tried to make this language robust modern English but with a slight twist; it’s not entirely modern. It is difficult to know how the Tudors actually spoke because we’re going back before Shakespeare; much of the drama from that period is courtly, allegorical. Fortunately we have many of Cromwell’s letters, and from them, you pick up something of the rhythm and tone of his language because many were dictated.”


message 10: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bentley | 31599 comments Mod
I love the narration Garret; although being the person that I am with history and historical narration I want to know all of the details of those 27 years (smile).

I think that Mantel did an astounding job.


Garret (ggannuch) What are your thoughts about Mantel’s use of the present tense in this novel?


message 12: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Feb 25, 2011 05:15AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bentley | 31599 comments Mod
Most historical novels are not in the present tense. But unlike most historical novels, Wolf Hall is written in the present tense.

I think one feels that they are placed in the midst of that time period and in the middle of Henry's court. Also, it is almost as if you are looking at this world through the eyes of Cromwell and entering his brain.

The present tense implies that the author also has no knowledge or affect on the events that will occur in the future.

I think it frees us the readers up to pretend to follow along with the unfolding of history or Mantel's version of it and it frees up Mantel to wander where she feels she wants to. She can also do a fair amount of speculation rather than to write as if the future was the fait accompli it really is.

I think it makes the characters come alive and seem more multi-dimensional. But this isn't the first historical novel to be written in the present and I doubt it will be the last.

I think we see Cromwell for example from his own point of view and the point of view of some of the book's major characters.

Mantel gives us a view of Cromwell as the family man as well as the man of intrigue and even how he deals with his pets.

I am having to get used to Mantel's use of flashbacks; nothing is linear about the book. I have mixed feelings about the use of flashbacks in general but Mantel does an expert job so far.

I am also wondering if because I am listening to the unabridged audio of the book and the dramatization through narration of the book itself whether the tense usage and flashbacks do not bother me as much as they might in the printed format. Would be interested to hear from folks who are reading the book and not listening to the audio to see if that is the case.

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel Hilary MantelHilary Mantel


Garret (ggannuch) Bentley wrote: "Most historical novels are not in the present tense. But unlike most historical novels, Wolf Hall is written in the present tense.

I think one feels that they are placed in the midst of that tim..."


Well said, Bently. I think that Mantel's use of the present tense helps create a sense of involvement and even mystery. This is very hard to do when you know the fate of these characters.


Garret (ggannuch) Bentley wrote: "Most historical novels are not in the present tense. But unlike most historical novels, Wolf Hall is written in the present tense.

I think one feels that they are placed in the midst of that tim..."


As you say the novel is written from Cromwell's point of view. But it is written in the third person, not first person.

This brings up Mantel’s use of the pronoun he in the book. It usually, but not always, refers to Cromwell even if the antecedent would grammatically be another character. Did you notice this? Has it caused any confusion for you? What do you think about it?

When asked about this Mantel replied, “I’m behind his eyes, so Cromwell is always “he.” Occasionally, there is an ambiguity, and the “he” could refer to somebody else, and I think that’s just the price you pay. To keep calling him Cromwell wouldn’t fit with the way the book is written. Although it’s written in the third person and not the first person, it’s actually more intimate than many third-person narratives. It’s as if the camera is on his shoulder.”

Read more http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs...


message 15: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Feb 25, 2011 08:49AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bentley | 31599 comments Mod
Like I said previously; from my viewpoint the audio narrative version worked out well and did not cause me that much confusion. I agree with your take that it is like the camera is on his shoulder.

I wonder when you listen to a book with all of the dramatization; different voices, etc...things become clearer than when you are reading the printed version; would love to hear what folks who have read or are reading the book think.

Yes, I agree about the person it is written in; but it is like someone is in his head.


Jeffrey (JWhitsitt) | 23 comments This brings up Mantel’s use of the pronoun he in the book. It usually, but not always, refers to Cromwell even if the antecedent would grammatically be another character. Did you notice this? Has it caused any confusion for you? What do you think about it?..."

Yes, I did not realize the problem, but you have put your finger on it - the use of he. I am reading rather than listening to audio book and initially I had trouble following the dialog. I would have to go back to figure out who was saying what. I am getting accustomed to it though.


Garret (ggannuch) Most people seem to get used to it. I did see one writer on the web state that even the narrator has made a mistake or 2 on the recording!


Mary Ellen | 164 comments I read the book last year, and initially found the "he" really annoying. I figured out what she was doing, but thought there was no need to be that confusing. Other authors have conveyed a limited third-person perspective without this odd use of "he."

Conversely, I thought the present tense was used well. I think it is a hard thing to pull off -- a bit unnatural, especially in third person -- but Mantel uses it very effectively.


message 19: by Garret (last edited Feb 26, 2011 01:23PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Garret (ggannuch) Thanks for weighing in, Mary. I am glad to hear someone else besides me finds the use of he in this book to be annoying and needlessly confusing!

I also think that the present tense works well in this book.


message 20: by Vincent (new) - added it

Vincent (vpbrancato) | 1008 comments I htink the present tense works so far but it is not far enough yet to know.

But, if just hypothetical, the vicious father omits the possibility that Cromwell left maybe for adventure or to serve ambition as it is mentioned that his early life is not well documented.

I lack in depth or detailed knowledge of this period of history.


Garret (ggannuch) Good point Vince!


message 22: by Hubert (new) - added it

Hubert | 13 comments Interesting book. It takes a while to get used to, as I find some of the engagement with the characters to be more clever than real, more trendy than emotional. But I understand that is part of Mantel's writing style. I certainly don't feel up to speed on the real historical stuff, so I feel like I'm missing stuff at times. In any case it's a book that's worth investigating and look forward to commenting and continuing. I'm sure I'll post some questions in this thread as well.

PS I'm reading the hardcover, not the audiobook.


message 23: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bentley | 31599 comments Mod
No mind Hubert...Garret set up the syllabus for both hardcover and audiobooks; even though we were doing the audiobook version; we were delighted to have all join who were planning to read the book. Quite a masterpiece. Please feel free to post as you go along. I found it confusing some of the time trying to figure out the different timeframes. But the characters become clearer and more detailed as you go through the book.


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