Posted By Claire on November 10, 2010
Now, I’m a complete bookworm and love everything from thrillers to Jane Austen, from Jodi Picoult to Charles Dickens, from Stephenie Meyer to Tolkien, so I’ve got rather varied taste, but Wolf Hall just didn’t do it for me. You’d think as a bookworm and Tudor history fanatic that a novel based in Tudor England, with Thomas Cromwell as the protagonist, would be just the book for me and that I’d be raving about it and shouting its praise from the roof tops, but I’m not. It’s not that I hated it, I didn’t even dislike it, I just didn’t fall in love with it and I had to keep pushing myself to read it when normally I use any excuse to sit and read. Usually, my husband will find me in a corner with a book when I’m supposed to be doing something else. You know, you disappear off to the loo and never come back! However, I really had to force myself to read Wolf Hall.
It’s hard to know why it didn’t grab me. I liked the way that the story was told from Cromwell’s point of view and that you saw the events and other characters through his eyes, and therefore with his bias, and I enjoyed empathising with Cromwell for once and seeing a rather nasty side to Thomas More, but I “liked” that, I didn’t “love” it. I commend Hilary Mantel for her meticulous research and for bringing Cromwell’s story to the public, but that wasn’t enough to make me fall in love with her novel. For me, it didn’t bring the Tudor period to life like the novels of C J Sansom or Robert Parry’s “Virgin and the Crab”, I couldn’t see and smell Tudor England when I read Mantel’s words, I wasn’t drawn into the book and the lives of the characters, I was more of a voyeur than a participant. Does that make sense?
Now, this does not mean that I would not recommend it to other Tudor history fans and book-lovers because I realise that there are many people out there who loved Wolf Hall. A friend of mine couldn’t believe it when I told her that I’d had trouble getting into it, she raved passionately about how it was the best book she’d read in years. Weird!
Obviously, Wolf Hall also won two prestigious prizes and there have been many, many glowing reviews of it both online and in newspapers, so I decided to ask for people’s views on the novel on my Anne Boleyn Files Facebook page – I got a mixed response:-
“I really LOVED it. I thought the language was beautiful, and by the end I really felt like I could walk into his house and move his chess pieces, rearrange his furniture, try on his clothes. I felt like I could smell him and hear his footsteps ringing on the floors of the court. I thought Mantel really brought his character to life. It’s what has made me want to find out more about the Tudors.” Hannah
“I liked it and am looking forward to the next installment. It sheds a lot of light on the one train of thought that Cromwell was instrumental in Anne’s downfall.” Ralphine
“Loved reading it, was sorry when it ended.” Karin
“I loved it –can’t wait for the sequel. Want to re-read it. I think the opening scene will be reprised as the final scene. A great literary work.” Karen
“I loved it – it did take me a while to get used to the writing style, but I felt that it made me pay more attention. I especially loved the fact that Cromwell has a big old donkey crush on Jane Seymour. Jane doesn’t get much attention in historical fiction, so it was nice to see her get an important part. I’m curious to see what happens in the sequel when Henry becomes interested in her.” Brooke
“I loved it too! I can’t wait for the sequel. It gave a gave a human/family side of Cromwell life.” Lori
“I absolutely loved it!” Sarah
“I started it, but did not finish it yet. Will return to it eventually. The style is pondersome, so thorough and exact that one does read it, put it down, to read it slowly. One cannot read it at a clip. I did like her observations..she is an excellent, thoughtful writer, but it is pondersome to read. So will return when I find the time.” Janet
“I didn’t care for it….too much Cromwell, not enough Anne.” Cecily
“I couldn’t get into it.” Kelly
“I didn’t particularly enjoy it. Her portrayals of several historical figures I found to be distasteful, and I could not connect to her Cromwell at all…he didn’t feel right and didn’t have a lot of depth in my view!” Lauren
“I started to read it but hated the writing style and put it down. Picked it up two days later and got into the writing but halfway through it I just found it tedious. I did finish it but am not a fan of this book.” Inese
“It did take a while to warm up and get use to the writing style.It is told in present tense and the writing is disjointed in places. Cromwell is constantly referred to as “he” which I found irritating to begin with.Some patience is required to get through it but the story is enjoyable and witty and I appreciated the perspective from the people behind the King & his Queens. 3.5-4 stars. So I’m with you Claire, I didn’t love or hate it.” Kate
“I have started it twice and can’t get beyond 100 pages. I have always hated Cromwell so it’s hard to read from his perspective. I also have issues with the present tense aspect. It makes for a tough read.” AnneMarie
“I read it but I have to admit I did have to force myself at times.” Tracy
“I didnt care for it regardless of the reviews.” Elizabeth
“I disliked it so much, I sold back my copy, and bought “the Lady in the Tower”. I found the writing style unreadable. Though I did read the whole book, I never wanted to read it again!” Marie
All I can say about “Wolf Hall” is that you should read it and make up your own mind. As you can see from the above comments, a group of Tudor history lovers could not agree on it so I just can’t say whether you’ll like it or not. If you have read it already then please leave your feedback in the comments section below to help others.
What’s It About Anyway?
As you can gather from what I’ve said about it, and the comments above, “Wolf Hall” is set in Tudor England during the reign of Henry VIII and it stars Thomas Cromwell as its main character, but here is the publisher’s ‘blurb’:-
“England in the 1520s is a heartbeat from disaster. If the king dies without a male heir, the country could be destroyed by civil war. Henry VIII wants to annul his marriage of twenty years and marry Anne Boleyn. The pope and most of Europe opposes him. Into this impasse steps Thomas Cromwell: a wholly original man, a charmer and a bully, both idealist and opportunist, astute in reading people, and implacable in his ambition. But Henry is volatile: one day tender, one day murderous. Cromwell helps him break the opposition, but what will be the price of his triumph?”
More About Wolf Hall
To celebrate the release in paperback, Picador Macmillan have got a page on their website – http://us.macmillan.com/wolfhall where you can:-
- Read an excerpt of Wolf Hall – click here to read the excerpt.
- Enjoy videos of Hilary Mantel talking about Wolf Hall and discussing Henry VIII with David Starkey – see Video Page
- Download a Reading Group Guide – click here for the PDF which includes discussion questions, a useful timeline and details on the book and author.
You can also find out more about Hilary Mantel on her special Facebook page.
Wolf Hall was published in paperback in the USA on the 31st August 2010 and is available from Picador direct (see links above for their Wolf Hall page), from Amazon US (click on cover image) or your favourite bookshop or library. It was released in paperback in the UK on the 4th March 2010 –click here for information from Amazon UK. The UK cover is white with a Tudor Rose.