My rating: 5 of 5 stars
England is always remaking herself, her cliffs eroding, her sandbanks drifting, springs bubbling up in dead ground. They regroup themselves while we sleep, the landscapes through which we move, and even the histories that trail us; the faces of the dead fade into other faces, as a spine of hills into the mist.
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel is a fascinating novel set during the reign of King Henry VIII, at the time of his second marriage (to Anne Boleyn) and his split from the church in Rome. The protagonist is Thomas Cromwell, and the story details his journey from being the son of a vicious blacksmith to gaining his position of prominence and power in King Henry's court.
Like all Tudor fictions, there are the usual personalities of Henry's court that feature in this story, characters including Cardinal Wosley, Anne and Mary Boleyn, Katherine of Aragon, Thomas More, Norfolk and Suffolk, Jane Seymour...I really enjoyed the author's intepretation of these characters, especially saintly Wosley, fiesty Anne, and crazy More.
Wolf Hall also includes a range of characters from Cromwell's blood kin and adopted family, making Master Cromwell far more personable and likeable than the unscrupulous villain he is normally portrayed as being. Thomas Cromwell remains the ingenious lawyer he has always been, but Mantel provides him with much greater scope: He is also a devoted family man with a love for animals (particularly dogs), who shows endless compassion for those less fortunate. Mantel's Cromwell is also rather humble, never proclaiming to be more than he is, and never denying his past or his origins.
I really enjoyed this novel and it is easily one of my favourite interpretations of the Tudor period that I have read to date. Despite its length (650+ pages), it doesn't feel like an excessively long read. In fact, Mantel's prose and descriptive abilities make it flow beautifully through past and present events. It is easy to believe that this is the real Thomas Cromwell, and that this story is the real history.
THE LADY OF THE RIVERS GIVEAWAY DETAILS:
I am currently hosting a giveaway for The Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory.
All you have to do to enter the draw is to leave a comment on my review post. Entries will be taken until midnight (Australian Central Standard Time) on Friday, 10 February 2012. The winner will be announced sometime over that weekend (11 - 12 February).
Giveaway is open to everyone, on the condition that the Book Depository ships free to your country.
The winner will receive this paperback copy of The Lady of the Rivers.
Best of luck!