Title: Wolf Hall
Author: Hilary Mantel
Genre: Fiction / Historical Fiction /
First published: 2009
Edition: Paperback published by Fourth Estate in 2010
Tudor England. Henry VIII is on the throne, but has no heir. Cardinal Wolsey is charged with securing his divorce. Into this atmosphere of distrust comes Thomas Cromwell – a man as ruthlessly ambitious in his wider politics as he is for himself. His reforming agenda is carried out in the grip of a self-interested parliament and a king who fluctuates between romantic passions and murderous rages.
I am so conflicted when it comes to this book. Whilst I recognised it’s incredible construction and the meticulous research that must have gone into it, it left me rather cold and I struggled to get through it.
The subject, Thomas Cromwell, is an interesting character, but somehow I felt I always stayed at arm’s length. I never quite felt that I was in his mind or that I knew what he was about. Maybe that was the intention, but it did not really work for me.
I found the writing impressive overall, but a bit dense and a little confusing at times. This is such a grand book, filled with characters from history we already think we are familiar with, but it is angled at quite a different viewpoint than the one we are used to. I thought I would love it and I am disappointed that I simply did not. I did not quite enjoy the experience of reading it the way I thought I would. At times it felt like a bit of a slog.
I am, however, glad I finally read it. I just wonder whether I read it at the right time. I will keep this on my shelves as it is one of those books I may read again in the future to see whether it will sink in more than it did this time.
Would I recommend it? Yes, I think I would, but with the side note that this is a book that takes quite some reading and will definitely not be for everyone. It was a bit dry and dense at times, but I think the overall story and writing is impressive enough to deserve to be read.
4 out of 7 stars