Wednesday, March 6, 2013

New Reads:

This week I'm reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. As part of my book club at work, we decided to read this book in addition to our other novel. We're reading it in thirds. 

Here's what it's about, in case you were wondering:

"In the ruthless arena of King Henry VIII's court, only one man dares to gamble his life to win the king's favor and ascend to the heights of political power.

England is a heartbeat from disaster. If the king dies without a male heir, the country could be destroyed by civil war. Henry VIII want to annul his marriage of twenty years and marry Anne Boleyn. The pope and Catholic Europe oppose him. The king's quest for freedom destroys his advisor, the brilliant Cardinal Wolsey, and creates a years-long power struggle between the Church and the Crown.

Into this impasse steps Thomas Cromwell, a wholly original man, both a charmer and a bully, an idealist and an opportunist, astute in reading people and a demon of energy: Cromwell is a consummate politician, hardened by years abroad and his personal loses. Implacable in his ambition and self-taught -- it is said that he can recite the entire New Testament from memory, knows Europe's major languages, and speaks poetry freely -- Cromwell soon becomes the country's most powerful figure after Henry. When Henry pursues his desire to marry Anne Boleyn, it is Cromwell who breaks the deadlock and allows the king his heart's desire. But Henry is volatile; one day tender, one day murderous. Cromwell helps him break the opposition -- Thomas Moore, "the man for all seasons"; Katherine the queen; his daughter the princess Mary -- but what will the price of his triumph?

Witty and persuasive, Hilary Mantel presents a picture of a half-made society on the cusp of change, in which individuals fight or embrace their fate with passion and courage. Employing a vast array of historical characters, and a story overflowing with incident. Wolf Hall turns Tudor England into a compelling piece of fiction. Mantel re-creates an era when the personal and political are separated by a hairsbreadth, where success brings unlimited power but a single failure means death."

I'm only a third of the way into it. It's going to take me a while to get all the way through it. It's a pretty impressive piece of work. The beginning is particularly hard to get through because of all the story set up. And there's no real character explanation. I had to read an English history textbook and a wikipedia article about Thomas Cromwell before I could actually start the novel.

It's good though. Interesting. I'm sure I'll enjoy it. And if this kind of thing is your thing, you will too. Give it a shot. Just hang in there through the beginning. It gets good.

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