Monday, 1 August 2011

WOLF HALL

It's taken me nearly a month, but I have finally finished reading "Wolf Hall" by Hilary Mantel. And thank God I have.

It may well be the most boring book I have ever read, and I've read "The Dark Fields" (aka "Limitless") by Alan Glynn. In 650 pages, not one interesting thing actually happens. On a few occasion, interesting events are alluded to, but we don't witness them. We hear them discussed briefly to add context to background characters. I think three times in the book I became hopeful that something interesting was about to happen, only to be thoroughly disappointed.

A little background is probably useful for those of you who haven't read it, especially since you won't guess what it's about from the title, which, as far as I can see, has absolutely nothing to do with the book whatsoever. The book follows Thomas Cromwell's rapid rise in Tudor society as he assists Henry VIII in divorcing Katherine of Aragon and marrying Anne Boleyn instead, which should be interesting. Or so you would think. That period in English history must be one of the most written about, most fictionalised and most sexed-up. I had high hopes. I quite liked "The Other Boleyn Girl" by Phillipa Gregory. I was very disappointed.

I won't sit here and spell out everything that was wrong with it, I will just say that I found it really difficult to follow who was who. Cromwell, the main character, is frequently referred to in the narrative as simply "he," which becomes tricky when he is having a conversation with another man, which is basically all that ever happens in the book. It's also difficult to follow who is who, because their titles and positions change every twenty pages or so. Since they all have the same names (Henry or Thomas, mainly) their titles are all the more important, and I could rarely work out who was actually in a room at any given time.

Finally, I'd like to say something about the title. Wolf Hall is the home of the Seymour family in the book, and as I'm sure most people would know, Henry marries Jane Seymour after he has Anne Boleyn beheaded. And yet, their paths never seem to cross in the book. In fact, at the end, you are left with the distinct impression that it is Cromwell who intends to marry Jane, saying as he does that they have five days free in the summer and that he intends to pay the Seymours a visit.

In summary, it was all very dull, very difficult to read and made absolutely no sense to me. It may be just as boring as "The Dark Fields," but it loses even more points for being more than twice as long.

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