Wolf Hall

by Hilary Mantel


This fictional account of life under England’s King Henry VIII, centering on royal advisor Thomas Cromwell, is an “admirable” book – but reading it was more chore than pleasure.

The upside:

Mantel’s dialogue is sharp and often witty.  The repartee between members of the king’s court, Cromwell family members, and even lowly commoners, is consistently engaging.

The sense of time and place is vivid.  I have no idea how accurate any of it is, but as a work of fiction, Wolf Hall opens the doors to palaces, chambers, and courtyards in Renaissance England and makes you believe that you are actually there.

The downside:

Mantel’s vocabulary is impressive, but I grew frustrated over her abuse of the simple pronoun, “he.”  I challenge anyone to read this novel without, at least occasionally, being surprised to learn that the “he” Mantel is writing about is not the “he” you had imagined.

Wolf Hall snagged numerous awards, including the Man Booker Prize.  But I side with scholar Susan Bassnett, who writes, “I have yet to meet anyone outside the Booker panel who managed to get to the end of this tedious tome.”


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