Books: Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

I know I'm late to the Wolf Hall party. The size of the book put me off for a while, but I found an inexpensive copy at Half-Price Books and bought it. I'm glad I did. It was perfect for a couple long plane rides.

The opening scene of the book was a tad confusing. It took me a moment to understand what I was reading, and then also I didn't love it. I wasn't sure I'd keep reading. But within a handful of pages, the book had captured me. Once it had me snared, I couldn't stop.

This is a fictional history of Henry VIII's attempts to set aside Katherine of Aragon and marry Anne Boleyn instead, all seen through the eyes of Thomas Cromwell. I've read a lot of historical fiction, plenty of it based around Henry VIII and his wives. But I knew very little about Cromwell before reading this book, and I still don't know much, by which I mean I don't know what bits of the book have been extracted from truth and what parts are spun fantasy. In any case, the whole is engrossing.

As for titular Wolf Hall, well, they never actually go. It is the seat of the Seymour family, and though it is mentioned a good number of times, and Jane Seymour dances around the edges of the novel [SPOILER FOLLOWS], it isn't until the final page that Cromwell makes arrangements for Henry to visit Wolf Hall during his annual progress. One supposes this sets up Bring Up the Bodies. I'll get around to reading that one as soon as I finish a couple others I have stacked up. I'm not sure I could jump immediately into more of this kind of thing after such a hefty diet of it the past month. As a "meal," it was certainly delicious. But it's the kind of book I need to digest before having another such feast.

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