Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel
This epic story is of Thomas Cromwell, who grew from an obscure poor background to be the most important person in King Henry VIII’s court. He orchestrated the annulment of Henry and Catherine of Aragon’s marriage so the King was free to marry Anne Boleyn.
Now you know I love long books and a good long involved story. But even for me, this one was too long and moved too slowly. I had to make myself read the first third until I got interested in what was happening.
It is set in a time of history which has interested me since learning about it in Year 8 and which most ‘anglos’ will have some knowledge: Tudor England, Henry and his 6 wives. It gives much more detail than most of us will be aware (although written as fiction). You meet other people of history along the way, such as Cranmer and Tyndale, which from a church history point of view is interesting. If you know nothing at all about this period of history, there is a good chance you will be quickly and permanently lost.
This is definitely not one for whom English is a second language. It is not easy to read. Her descriptions of events and people are subtle and you need to pay persistent attention to what is going on, let alone be able to follow an extensive list of characters, many of whom names change throughout as they are either bestowed with new titles or removed them by the king.
My knowledge of Cromwell is so limited I was not exactly sure what happened to him in the end, although considering the time and the probabilities, I was pretty sure he would be executed somewhere down the track. (This is a somewhat embarrassing admission since I suspect we may have covered this in Reformation Church History at Bible College). However, I was a bit disappointed to discover that I have to read on to find out, this is only the first in an intended trilogy. When I have some time and energy I may move on to Bring up the Bodies, but I won’t be rushing into it!