Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Wolf Hall

I have finally got round to reading the prize-winning Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. Historical novels can often be rather stodgy affairs, feeling it necessary to fill you in with lots of history in a way that blocks the action. A strategy adopted by some is to make this palatable is to create a whodunnit - in very different ways the Shardlake series by C.J. Sansom and Ellis Peters' Cadfael books do this.

In Wolf Hall, Mantel majors on the rise of Thomas Cromwell, during the time of Henry VIII without having to resort to either of these methods. She portrays Cromwell more sympathetically than other accounts, and to some extent tries to explain his flaws and attitudes. She doesn't overdo the gruesome or the primitive aspects of Tudor London, but still manages to place the reader in a world that is very different from ours. Crucially, the people involved seem very real. They speak an English we understand, although the occasional Tudor word or phrase drops by, and they have feelings and instincts we can relate to.

If you are one of the few people left who haven't got round to it yet, it's well worth a fiver or so to get hold of a copy.
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