Apr 19th, 2010 by Thomas Stofer
Author: Hilary Mantel
Title: Wolf Hall
Publisher: 4th Estate
Paperback: 653 pages
Publication Date: 04/03/2010
The first book to be reviewed from my Tudor rampage is Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall. Having worked in a certain large nameless UK book retailers [probably the only one still standing] over the Christmas period, I developed an irrational dislike for this novel based solely on the pain caused by having to schlep around numerous hardback copies of this weighty tome for customers.
Thus, when I finally got hold of a copy of the paperback, I was inclined to dislike this novel – but ended up loving it. The plot revolves around Thomas Cromwell’s ascent during the reign of Henry VIII, and there have been so many films, books and tv shows about this period that most readers will already know what is going to happen from the outset.
Instead, Mantel relies upon characterisation and recreating an atmosphere of the time. Mantel chose to write in what she has called the ‘historic present’ [it’s set in the past but written as though we were there] and initially I found it difficult going [I am not the greatest fan of books written in the present tense – yes, I know that I have a lot of pet peeves!]. But I quickly became immersed, flying through the book in a couple of days.
Part of what drew me to this book was Mantel’s efforts to humanise Thomas Cromwell [whose name has never really recovered from Elizabeth I’s smear campaign against him – well he did orchestrate her mother’s execution!], but I also have to confess that I was also drawn to the fact that there were so many characters bearing my name in the book [and who doesn’t love to see their name in print!].