24 Jan Finally Reading ‘Wolf Hall’ by Hilary Mantel: A Review
I mentioned wanting to read Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel in my TBR for 2020. This was more of a personal goal to finally get to this book and, ultimately, see for myself what the hype of this particular series was all about.
About the Book
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?
There is a LOT of hype around this book. Rave reviews abound. Winner of the Booker Prize, Wolf Hall is a title that is both loved and adored in the book industry and its new instalments are eagerly awaited and lusted for. What I ended up discovering was that when it comes to Wolf Hall, there are two camps. For every good review, there’s a bad one — the ‘dark’ reviewing web, if you will. Out there, there are readers who didn’t enjoy this book as much as those who did and I’m sorry to say that I reside in the camp that didn’t enjoy Wolf Hall.
I love a good historical fiction novel. I’ve been raised on Henry VIII and his wives, all the delicious titbits of Tudor history, and anything to do with the House of Plantagenet. It is a hidden love of mine nurtured over the years by my grandmother. So, with Wolf Hall, I was excited to put my feet up and finally be ‘old enough’ to read this series. Now, perhaps I was after something more thrilling, or maybe my above-average knowledge of the time period left me feeling uninterested and unsurprised about the subject matter. I found Mantel went on tangents, pages and pages of war politics, descriptions of scenes that added nothing to the overall story. Ultimately, I was left feeling that this book could have been a good 200 pages shorter. This period in time is thrilling on its own —a king with a sexual appetite who wants to ditch his wife ends up creating a new religion and breaking away from the church, changing history on a whim simply because he wants nothing more than a son and the touch of a younger woman’s body. Sure, this is all done in the name of saving the royal bloodline and giving England a rightful heir. While Mantel focuses on Cromwell, there seems to be just no ‘feeling’ behind the man. This meant, for the majority of the novel, that I felt unattached to the man and, on only two pages out of the 800 — Cromwell’s wife & daughters’ eventual deaths — did I have my heartstrings tugged ever so briefly. I wanted more. So much more.
But, Wolf Hall didn’t capture my intrigue. That said, I will absolutely recommend this book to those seeking out this particular genre. Reader beware though because it’s an absolute tome of a history novel.
3 out of 5 stars
Have you read Wolf Hall, do you agree?