Sunday, 28 March 2010

Wolf Hall (3)

I am torn between "meh" and loving this book. "Meh" because I didn't realise it would follow so closely the Katherine-Henry-Anne story yet again - this really has been done to death now, surely? - and loving it because...well, it is just so absorbingly written. And Mantel is right: Cromwell is an intriguing character, and one ripe to hang this story on; and she brings him utterly to life; and perhaps I did learn a lot about the machinations that go on behind the scenes of law-making, but... there's just such a 'but' with this book.

First of all, you have to have time to read Wolf Hall. Big, fat chunks of time. I have been working to the point of exhaustion these last few weeks, and without a solid two hours every day to devote to the book, I just couldn't get into it. Fifteen minutes on a train here, ten minutes before I turn the light out there, just won't cut it with this monster. I found myself bored and frustrated with the book. But - there's that 'but' again - that's not to say that if you do have the time needed to really get into it, it's not brilliant. A rare Saturday morning free to lie around and drink coffee and do nothing else but read this weekend, proved that.

There are some wonderful humorous moments that I wasn't expecting, some great witticisms on the part of both Cromwell and others, which add a very human dimension to this well-worn tale. It undoubtedly forces a new look at Cromwell, an historical figure whose reputation precedes him always, and which perhaps might be reconsidered in the light of Mantel's thorough research. And it is a good novel, and interesting - the title, for example, is very clever. Wolf Hall itself plays no role in the book, yet is the very final sentence. It is as though we and the characters are always pushing forward, toward something, toward this place and the events it holds, as though Wolf Hall itself is a great towering representation of fate, that sits like a predator waiting for us to finally arrive... for it is the family seat of the Seymours, whose youngest daughter Jane will be Anne Boleyn's successor. And it is at Wolf Hall, one presumes, that the story will be taken up in the sequel currently underway. And of course, I shall read the sequel eagerly. Eagerly...but...

1 comment:

Hannah Stoneham said...

interesting final installment - thanks for sharing! I think that Cromwell is arguably the most interesting focal point for this story... i agree that this book cannot be read on the tube in the mornings - you need a run up to get into it. I read it on holiday and so had pretty much uninterrupted reading time!

Thanks for sharing Lulu