Wendy Armstrong

Been on my shelf for four years - should I read it??

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Vidhi Depends on what kind of reader you are. This book doesn't start easy. And if one is unfamiliar with the English history like I was, it can be quite confusing. There are too many Thomases and like. But having said that, once you are in the narrative, it is a great read. Like every good book, it will give you withdrawal symptoms after finishing it. But it would not be very much about the characters. It would be more about the environment. I felt as if I am suddenly cut off from the English court and missing all the gossips, all the wheelings and dealings that I had become part of. So yeah, I found it a rewarding read.
James No. Not unless you are complete Tudor History buff and you bring with you a complete understanding of the era and the characters therein. Otherwise this book is simply hard bloody work.
Carol Fowler this is probably the best book I have read in the last decade (at least)

I just managed to finish it before I started watching the TV series. Now started on Bring up the Bodies and it's even better
Heather Read it while/after you watch the BBC adaptation this spring. The book is wonderful on its own (IMHO) but it can be difficult to keep track of all the various characters...I'm re-reading it now with the marvelous actors' faces and voices and costumes in my mind, and it's even richer.
Karl Mattson I finished it recently -- as I made my way though it quickly became one of my favorite books. Despite putting it down weeks ago, I'm still thinking about it on a daily basis. It's not a bad idea to read a primer on Thomas Wolsey, Henry VIII, and his court prior to start and/or to keep wikipedia close at hand, I suppose. I'd watched the (somewhat silly) television series 'The Tudors' prior to reading this, and so was already familiar with the most significant players.
Liverpooljack stop dawdling before I chop your bloody head off.... read it!
Ralph Maughan This is not Mantel's best writing. Often it is not clear who is speaking or where they are. In addition, the over and over and over foreshadowing of Woolsely's ultimate fall is tedious indeed. This book needs a lot of thinning and a good, tough editor.
Pat I found this book very difficult to read. A large part of the problem is the author's use of pronouns. I often could not figure out which character was talking to whom. It was a very slow read and I was anxious to finish it before the series started on PBS. Having said that, I started Bring up the Bodies, and am enjoying it. Maybe it is because I am already acquainted with the characters, but I seem to be able to follow the flow of the story with interest this time.
Janet C No. Life's too short! I found the style of writing pretentious and gave up about a third of the way through.
Phil Clymer I tried to read it, made it about 1/3 of the way. I switched to the audio version read by Simon Slater and found it a lot easier to follow. It was well worth the time invested.
Droydicus Malojan Dear god, yes! Achingly beautiful characterisation and prose. Cant recommend it highly enough.
Greg NO! Read David Starkey's non-fiction account! It's shorter than Mantel's mess of a trilogy.
Lemmon Absolutely not. Very hard to read. There are better books out there on this subject that are pleasures to read. Dont waste your time. I really dont understand all the positive reviews this book has.
Sue It's a masterpiece. It doesn't matter if you're familiar with the history or not, this is a novel based on historical characters. Absolutely superb writing and characters. One of the best novels I've read in ages, and Bring Up The Bodies is just as good.
Carole Now is the time to read it while the series is on TV (BBC in UK)
Wendy Armstrong Well, I am on page 95. I really enjoyed the first chapter: the evocation of old Putney, the relatively small cast of interesting characters etc, but the second ('An Occult History of England'?), is miring me down. There are a host of Thomases having convoluted dialogues and my attention is wandering. I'll stick with it for now. It's only the enticing mentions of Anne Boleyn that are keeping me going at the moment.
Thomas Acland I have to agree with Martin on this one, despite being really interested with the idea of the novel I found it really hard to get to grips with the history and all the characters.
Becky Yes! Although this is only based on me reading the first two chapters and then taking it back to the library knowing that it would take me too long to read (I would only rack up enormous library fines on it because I am crap at libraries)...
Stan Mould Luckily, I know a fair bit about this period in English history. It was interesting to 'get to know' Thomas Cromwell, as it were, because he has often been painted as the 'baddie' in other books.
For example, in 'A Man for All Seasons' by Robert Bolt, which I had to study for my English Lit exams at grammar school, Cromwell and Richard Rich are portrayed as evil, whilst Thomas More was written as almost saint-like.
In Wolf Hall, the opposite is the case, with More being portrayed as an embittered and curmudgeonly beast who enjoyed watching his victims being racked and otherwise tortured, for example with white-hot knives.

Not the easiest of reads, but I'm glad I made it, and will be looking for the sequel as soon as I can.

Well worth the effort after a slow start, and yes, there are a LOT of Thomas's!
Ta Vandercook Yes.
Mantel’s style with pronouns was confusing, in the beginning, to figure out 'who' was talking or thinking at any given time. Once I got into her 'cadence' that solved itself, and the meticulously drawn characters and environment created a visceral response to the key players and story of this time in England.
Mantel's style enables you to look through a zoom lens to ‘watch’ what’s unfolding in real time; you become the fly on the wall to observe who’s real and who’s not, who’s playing the game right and who’s obliviously heading for disaster. She intricately weaves in surrounding details that subliminally drew me in deeper as the story moved along.
To be able to make Cromwell a sympathetic person is quite a feat; I actually came to see him as a human being; I empathized with him while disliking his end game(s). Like him or not, I liked Mantel's version that an early need for survival and detatchment resulted in honed skills for strategizing and manipulating brilliantly - which also kept him alive within the viper's nest of Tudor court politics.
I was very pleasantly surprised when extremely witty and funny dialogue made me laugh, and the characters became even more 'real'. It added to the strong takeaway that people themselves have not really changed.
Watching "Anne of a Thousand Days" is an entertaining way to get familiar with the basic chessboard of players and 'who was who' in the Tudor court. If you hang in there, it's one of the best examples of how we become addicted to reading in the first place, "we laugh, we cry, it becomes a part of us"...
John Not should - Must! Why? Three good reasons: One, it redefines the entire genre of the history novel in its literary approach. Secondly, yes, it is a monster of a read, it is challenging, a mountain to be conquered, but if you can make the time it becomes a terrific punt along the Cam, and the effort gives way to real, deep pleasure. I found myself reading slower and enjoying Mantel's inordinate details. Thirdly, it is deeply educational - in a way few novels are today - whether it's dissecting power or looking at Turkey (sic) Carpets, it's got true depth. Go for it - and keep going!!
Wonderperson89 Yes, absolutely YES.t
She is a Living Historian who literally enters the Tudor Life in a way that totally brings it to life. There is plenty of blood, gore, horrible executions, sex, poverty, ineqaulities etc. She is an Author NOT to be missed. I plan to read 'Bring up the Bodies' and 'Mirror and Light' when it comes out.
Highly Recommended and I am not even through with the book!
Jan Been on my shelf for a considerable time too and finally almost read it. So I guess no. You 'd better read philosophy or science.
The only novel I read in the last ten years that was really worth reading was The Road by Cormac McCarthy.
So I guess either I or the novel needs to move on ;-)
Suzanne Yes most assuredly! There are lots and lots of books about Henry VIII and all the assorted wives/folks that he discarded but Hilary Mantel tells the timeless story with just the right amount of accurate history and artful storytelling. Who can tire of the intrigues and brilliance of Anne Boelyn?
Audrey Yes. I could not put it down.
Judith_Rex Yes, of course you should try it. Give it a couple of pages if you are unsure what is going on...and after that it can fly by. I knew Tudor history, but you don't need to. This isn't a history lesson but a alternative reading of what we know about the time. I found it funny, fun and persuasively intelligent.
Ken Yes! I've read it twice and will force myself to wait until "The Mirror and the Light" comes out to re-read it and "Bring Up the Bodies."
Margaret Keep a dictionary and Google close by and you will love this book. It takes a bit of work, and it will challenge you to think about what the characters are saying and why they are saying it - it's all about the history. So if you are not intimately familiar with the history of the Tudors, Rome, Protestantism, etc. (and I was not), you can still enjoy this book - be prepared to do a very small bit of study via the internet and be warned - you will want to begin to do more study of the period and politics once you have finished it!
Claire Yes! If you're a Tudor England / renaissance / reformation fangirl like myself, it's pretty much a must-read.
Susan I started this in print and couldn't get far. I started the audio version and put it down too. Now a year later, with no other good listening available on my MP3 player, I turned it on again. While cutting and sewing quilt pieces I've quite gotten into it. Yes, there is some confusion of Thomas' and I don't follow all the historical details but I am finding it engaging.
Martin I found this really hard going. For me there was far too much assumption that you know well the history of the period, and I clearly didn't. Slightly better educated now, but I can't say I enjoyed it. I do enjoy historical novels but won't be reading the next book (Bring Up the Bodies) in a hurry.
Dan Power It's really big, and after a fairly good start it begins to read more like a detailed history textbook than a novel. Not great.
Nullifidian Yes, you should, but be prepared for the fact that it's not a chronological account, despite the chapter headings that make it seem like it's told in chronological order. The perspective shifts from present to past in an instant and you have to be able to follow that kind of nonlinear narrative.
Bobby Bermea I found this book astounding and I have only a passing interest in Tudor history. The "he" thing was difficult, but also visionary. If you take it out and replace it in a sentence with say, "Cromwell", it does create distance. I got used to it and was glad to do so. But frankly, I just found Mantel to be one hell of a writer and was blown away by her ability to find depth, poignancy, humanity and even drama in a story where we already know how it's going to end. She created whole people and made an age come to life. Great book.

By the way, I thought the TV show was painfully bad in comparison.
dreda l kenline It is a wonderfully written book that is akin to a fictional autobiography. Thomas Cromwell is one of those people in Tudor history that has received (in recent years) a revision of his personality and motivation for certain events by historians; thus this series of books by Mantel. I know a lot about the period so for me this book was entertaining and it did help me to see Cromwell in a different light. Mantel makes these characters human and in doing so greatly reduced my idea of any one of them to be perfectly "good" or perfectly "evil". The book is written from the perspective of Cromwell and includes many passages that could best be described as "inner monologue". But once you see what she is doing it is much easier to read. And much better appreciated! And as an aside; the tv series is very good indeed and well worth watching for more insight. mark rylance is subtly tough, yet tender, as Cromwell.
Jay Yes. If you don't know much about Tudor history, give it some time; it may take some effort. But it's absolutely fabulous.
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