Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Wolf Hall

by Hilary Mantel

I always feel obligated to finish books that are recommended to me by good friends. So I slogged through this novel, waiting, waiting, and still waiting for the reason why my friend would have me read this book. I finally finished, and am still unclear. Normally a 500+ page book doesn't intimidate me, I can whip through them in no time, but this one took me over six weeks to finish. Needless to say, I didn't like it.

Which is unusual for a historical novel about Henry VIII. Usually I devour those. This one, which is from the perspective of Thomas Cromwell, had potential. Most people focus on the women around Henry; this one focused on his man Cromwell. But it was hard work reading this novel. Reading should never be hard work unless you're getting graded on it or paid for it. The paragraphs went on and on, and though I will say she had some very creative and flowing descriptions, it was just too much.

The one thing that really bothered me about this book (and this may be because of the grammar fanatic that my mother instilled in me) was the use of the pronoun "he". The author used it everywhere, and was consequently unclear about who was doing what to whom and who was speaking to whom. Do you realize how many "he"'s there were who worked for Henry VIII?! Too many to just be able to rely on "he" and have the reader follow along.

I did like the character of Thomas Cromwell. She depicted him as practical and tough, a humble rising star in a world focused solely on pedigree. He knew what to do and when to do it, but was also human in that it was hard for him to juggle both his personal and his professional lives. He was a tangible character, and showed the reader the grim realities of living in the sixteenth century with a king who only wants to be loved.

So it wasn't a complete waste of six weeks. I learned a lot about Cromwell that I didn't know before. But it was all I could do to not give up. It's an award-winning book and many other reviewers absolutely loved it, so maybe there's just something about it that I missed. All I know right now is that I'm glad I finally made it through to the end.

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