Doreen's Reviews > Wolf Hall

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
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I really wanted to like this more. I've enjoyed other of Hilary Mantel's works, and saw echoes of them throughout this one, but overall I am hard-pressed to understand why Wolf Hall has garnered as much critical acclaim as it has. Oh, this novel has many virtues, my own list of which I will extol shortly, but the style of writing is so piecemeal, and Ms Mantel's slapdash use of the pronoun "he" so aggravating in the unnecessary confusion it brings. Also, I am puzzled by the title. Wolf Hall, seat of the Seymours, is alluded to often, but never actually visited. It is, in fact, a destination Cromwell decides upon only at the end of the book. Is this meant to be some sort of allegory, perhaps for King Henry's battle to divorce Katherine of Aragon so he might father a legitimate male heir upon Anne Boleyn? Or perhaps it is a code to encompass Cromwell's struggle to do the right thing by himself, his monarch, and England, in the process besting the lords and scholars who treated him so shabbily earlier on in life? If it is, it's a pretty opaque comparison, on par with the bafflingly disjointed style of the book's writing.

Which isn't to say it's not a worthwhile book. Ms Mantel takes an important chapter of English history and refuses to retread old ground or perpetuate a steaming pack of lies (I'm looking at you, Ms Gregory and Mr Ford.) Wolf Hall is a highly sympathetic portrait of Thomas Cromwell but does not, at any point, appear to take liberties with the facts or at least the general dispositions of the people involved. Everything makes sense, and that's not an accusation I can fling at a lot of historical fiction. For all Ms Mantel's writing flaws, she is adept at conveying kindness and morality with an economy of words. More importantly, she depicts Thomas Cromwell as a hero of great complexity, a man who is entirely moral even as he is, really, just a man.

I'm looking forward to reading the next book in the trilogy, though I shan't be in any tearing rush. I think I'll need time to forget Ms Mantel's idiosyncracies of writing before I can begin to appreciate her gifts in storytelling again.
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Reading Progress

May 15, 2012 – Started Reading
May 15, 2012 – Shelved
May 15, 2012 –
page 35
6.58% ""And all outcomes are likely, all outcomes can be managed, even massaged into desirability" -- pg 23"
May 17, 2012 –
page 175
32.89% "Her idiosyncratic way of tagging the pronoun "he" continues to irritate me."
May 21, 2012 – Finished Reading

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