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Favorite HF Authors > Hilary Mantel

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message 1: by Hilda (new)

Hilda Reilly | 176 comments I know that Hilary Mantel must be a favourite HF author for a lot of people. She isn’t for me, although I like all her other writing, and I’m curious to know what it is about Wolf Hall and her two other massive HF works that people value so highly. I’m thinking that I really should try to give it another go and if I can get some pointers as to where its literary merit lies this might galvanise me.


message 2: by Cathy (new)

Cathy | 11 comments I don't know about literary merit, I just know I found Wolf Hall completely engrossing. I had watched the TV miniseries "The Tudors" and that may have helped provide me with a context for Thomas Cromwell, and for the events depicted in the book. (Not to mention a face - James Frain ...)

Wolf Hall has very little 'action'. Most of the book reflects the internal life of the main character, and Mantel presented it in a way that felt vivid and real to me. The detailed rendering of daily life in his homes and in Henry VIII's palace certainly helped that.

Cromwell was a pivotal figure - THE pivotal figure? - in one of the most interesting periods in English history, and he also happens to have taken a unique and fascinating path to get to that position. This portrait of his intellectual challenges, moral dilemmas, and emotional struggles was a page-turner for me. I rarely read books that have been recently published but I did with Wolf Hall. I actually felt a little bereft when I finished it, and I waited with great impatience for Bring Up the Bodies to be published!


message 3: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca Huston (telynor) | 35 comments Bring up the Bodies has been published. And it is very good.


message 4: by Cathy (new)

Cathy | 11 comments I read that one too Rebecca, and I enjoyed it too.


message 5: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca Huston (telynor) | 35 comments Now it's just waiting for The Light and the Mirror to be released. Even though I know how it will go, I still want to read it.


message 6: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer (jennepstein) I'd actually read a lot of Hillary Mantel's books before Wolf Hall--including [[book:Giving Up the Ghost: A Memoir|3594424], An Experiment In Love, Beyond Black, and A Place of Greater Safety--and found all of them intriguing. She's a writer with tremendous range and skill--though I'll admit I almost don't want to read Bring Up The Bodies because I liked Wolf Hall so much!


message 7: by Cathy (new)

Cathy | 11 comments Cathy Merriman For those who love her writing, can you articulate why? Maybe we can convert some of the doubters ;) ... On the other hand I am also curious to know the reasons some dislike her writing.


message 8: by ~Leslie~ (new)

~Leslie~ (akareadingmachine) I've been thinking about reading Wolf Hall for awhile and have been put off by certain reviews. I've never read Hilary Mantel before, so I'm very interested in this conversation. I love historical fiction and am pretty familiar with the time period.


message 9: by Hilda (new)

Hilda Reilly | 176 comments I’m trying to put my finger on exactly what it is that I don’t like about Wolf Hall. I think it’s a kind of impressionistic thing. I feel that the writing is very strongly flavoured, like venison or Marmite. The prose is saturated with an idiosyncratic authorial character which I find offputting – an archness, a kind of verbal pirouetting, as if she was saying to readers: “Oh, look at me, please. Aren’t I clever?” This gets between me and the characters. I got the same effect when trying to read A Place of Greater Safety. This is all the more surprising in that it doesn’t appear in her non-HF books, which I’ve enjoyed very much, nor does it seem at all consistent with Hilary Mantel as a person. I’ve heard her talk and found her charming, modest and delightful.


message 10: by R.M.F. (new)

R.M.F. Brown | 68 comments She speaks a lot of sense in her interviews as well - always worth listening too.


message 11: by Cathy (new)

Cathy | 11 comments Maybe that voice is her way of trying to capture a historical manner of speaking? That could be why it doesn't appear in her books on more modern topics.


message 12: by Ellen (new)

Ellen I really enjoyed her books. I did have to concentrate or I would lose the thread especially with A Place of Greater Safety. I kept going back to figure out which character was speaking. Even so, the book was great and I liked her take on the characters.


message 13: by Taylor (new)

Taylor I've only read Wolf Hall. I might have enjoyed it more but her excessive overuse of pronouns made me crazy. I couldn't tell which character was saying what and kept having to reread sections for clarity and then giving up hoping it would all make sense in the end. I hope she's since acquired a better editor.


message 14: by Rosie (new)

Rosie | 1 comments I have struggled massively with Wolf Hall too. After so many good reviews, I felt it was a 'must read' and so II started with the audiobook, but just couldn't follow it, so turned to the printed version. This has been a little better, but I still found it hard to become absorbed in the narrative as it so often hard to know who is speaking. I have also come to the conclusion that the use of present tense, coupled with the rather detached, impersonal style is the problem for me. (The cardinal inclines his head to the servants....., The cardinal joins his hands....., The servants efface themselves...., etc). For now I have given up, but you never know, one day I might try again!


message 15: by Hilda (new)

Hilda Reilly | 176 comments Taylor wrote: "I've only read Wolf Hall. I might have enjoyed it more but her excessive overuse of pronouns made me crazy. I couldn't tell which character was saying what and kept having to reread sections for cl..."
The overuse of pronouns comes up repeatedly in criticisms of Wolf Hall. I'm just wondering if those who praise it have a problem with this. If not, why not? Anyone? Do you not feel that it gets in the way of your reading and understanding? Or is it a challenge that your relish, making you read with greater concentration perhaps?


message 16: by Bryn (new)

Bryn Hammond (brynhammond) | 298 comments I'm not a fan of the novel, but I liked the use of 'he'. I felt it conveyed an inside perspective. It didn't trouble me.


message 17: by R.M.F. (new)

R.M.F. Brown | 68 comments Rosie wrote: "I have struggled massively with Wolf Hall too. After so many good reviews, I felt it was a 'must read' and so II started with the audiobook, but just couldn't follow it, so turned to the printed ve..."

I had the same difficulty, but it's worth it in the end.


message 18: by Cathy (new)

Cathy | 11 comments I agree with Bryn: this writing style contributed to me feeling like I was inside Cromwell's head. To me that is one of the great strengths of the book; it also helps highlight the contrast between his inner life and outward activities. Cromwell was considered a thug, villain, pretender etc by so many around him. Of course they did not know how he was moved by his love for his wife, the Christmas angels wings of his daughters. It allowed us in on his contemplations of his past and how it affected his life now, and how it influenced his rise in the world.

I do enjoy writers who can create voices for their characters - so much more interesting than "He said, she said, they did," etc. This makes me think of
The Poisonwood Bible in which you came to know exactly which character was 'speaking' because Kingsolver created so many distinct voices. Such skill impresses me. My favourite author Mario Vargas Llosa has created books that are not only amazing stories, but challenge the reader with intellectual puzzles. Some of his books are work - but I appreciate the challenge, if the story is worth it. (My favourite of this books are The Green House, The War of the End of the World, and The Storyteller. I've loved his work for years - though not all of it - and I fairly gloated when he won the Nobel Prize :) But I'm digressing.)


message 19: by Bryn (new)

Bryn Hammond (brynhammond) | 298 comments That's well said, Cathy. It kept me centred in his head, too, and even with a natural effect: in that he didn't call himself by name... as you don't.

I disliked 'Wolf Hall', I'm afraid, but not its techniques. I need to try 'A Place of Greater Safety' where the subject is more for me.


message 20: by Bryn (last edited Jun 18, 2013 01:19PM) (new)

Bryn Hammond (brynhammond) | 298 comments Here's a direct link to Virginia's review (which I had to search for): http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...

I haven't read Bring Up the Bodies, to comment. Excellent review, though.


message 21: by Jaye (new)

Jaye  | 22 comments Hilda wrote: "I’m trying to put my finger on exactly what it is that I don’t like about Wolf Hall. I think it’s a kind of impressionistic thing. I feel that the writing is very strongly flavoured, like venison o..."

...or Marmite"

I don't know what you mean because I haven't read it, but I really like how you describe it !


message 22: by Margarita (new)

Margarita Morris Hilda wrote: "Taylor wrote: "I've only read Wolf Hall. I might have enjoyed it more but her excessive overuse of pronouns made me crazy. I couldn't tell which character was saying what and kept having to reread ..."
Wolf Hall was the first Hilary Mantel novel which I read and, whilst I enjoyed it in the end, I did find the overuse of the pronoun "he" something of a problem. Cromwell is always referred to as "he" even when the previous sentence refers to someone else and this leads to ambiguities of meaning. For example, I just opened the book at random and found these sentences:
"Gregory is coming up thirteen. He's at Cambridge, with his tutor. He's sent his nephews, his sister Bet's sons, to school with him."
To me, this just seems ridiculously confusing. The "he" in the second sentence refers to Gregory, but the "he" in the third sentence refers to Cromwell. That sort of thing causes the reader to trip up as they're going along. However, I have to say I didn't find the same problem so much, if at all, with Bring up the Bodies. There were also many places where Bring up the Bodies made me laugh out loud. I will definitely be reading the third in the trilogy when it comes out.


message 23: by Laura (new)

Laura Purcell I find I can only listen to her books on CD because the actor changes voices so I know who's speaking! I do enjoy them but I get irritated by the constant "he, Cromwell". Why not just say Cromwell?


message 24: by Kim (new)

Kim Morin | 4 comments I find her Cromwell series intriguing and highly satisfying. She so gets into cromwells head, and he makes a very compelling character. I had to read the books several times though to pick up all the nuances,the more I read the better I liked. I don't know if I'd want to read the third one.....he dies!!!


message 25: by Larry (new)

Larry Zuckerman | 34 comments Kim, that's the thing about these books that I love too. Mantel understands how to re-create Cromwell's inner life, and in such coherent detail I feel I'm with him, moment to moment. It's a great skill, especially since she does it by showing, not telling.


message 26: by Jenifer (new)

Jenifer (jensamaha) | 7 comments I'm in the middle of Wolf Hall right now and like others, I really dislike her overuse of the pronoun "he". There times where I need to re-read a sentence in order to figure out which "he" she is talking about.

But all that aside, I find the book incredible with its historical detail and focus on a short period of time in history. I'll definitely be reading Bringing Up the Bodies.


message 27: by Jenifer (new)

Jenifer (jensamaha) | 7 comments I'm in the middle of Wolf Hall right now and like others, I really dislike her overuse of the pronoun "he". There times where I need to re-read a sentence in order to figure out which "he" she is talking about.

But all that aside, I find the book incredible with its historical detail and focus on a short period of time in history. I'll definitely be reading Bringing Up the Bodies.


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