Oh Cannonball, how I have missed you! Usually spring semester is not so busy but usually I am not taking a class while teaching and working full-time. Oh well. Here’s to summer…
The one fun book I read this semester was Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. I bought the book when it first came out and just now got to it as part of my Mount TBR Challenge. It was definitely a highlight of my semester though.
Thomas Cromwell is our guy in this chronicle of the early years of King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn’s love affair. From humble beginnings, he starts his professional life as an assistant to Cardinal Wolsey but after Wolsey’s death he becomes a minister to the King. Along the way he meets Cranmer, Anne and Mary Boleyn, the rest of the Boleyn gang, Thomas More, and a very young Jane Seymour. As it is a planned trilogy, with Bring up the Bodies out now of course, it ends on the cusp of the shift in Henry’s feelings towards Anne and the disgrace of Thomas More.
The book reads beautifully and Cromwell is an extremely sympathetic character. Mantel’s writing has a nice cheekiness to it that often feels self-referential. The quote “Some of these things are true and some of them lies. But they are all good stories” is a nice commentary both in relation to action in the story but also to the process of telling this particular story. While she absolutely must take liberty with the characters’ comments and actions to tell this story, she tries to stay true to life as much as possible (very much unlike the tv show The Tudors that took many liberties). In contrasting the two approaches, I prefer this Thomas Cromwell to his small screen counterpart, but I was surprised at how petty and irritable she made Thomas More as he is typically portrayed with more nobility. Honestly, it was quite fun.
The book slows a bit toward the end, but most of it has a nice pace. If you know nothing about the Tudor period at all, it could be potentially difficult to read, especially keeping track of the characters. Nevertheless, it is one of my favorite of the year. Historical fiction at its finest!