I have seen several people tip this book for the Booker prize this year, and so decided to give it a try. Unfortunately this book was even more disappointing than The Children’s Book, which I think will win this year’s prize despite the fact it wasn’t for me.
Wolf Hall is set in Tudor England and tells the story of Thomas Cromwell, one of the lesser known people from this period in history, but a man with huge influence over Henry VIII. The book concentrates on the time around Henry’s divorce to Catherine of Arragon and his marriage to Anne Boleyn, a period in history which has been covered many times before, most successfully in The Other Boleyn Girl.
A book has to be outstanding to grab my attention when I know the story already and I’m afraid this book wasn’t. The writing was very clunky and didn’t flow smoothly. I found that I had to keep re-reading sections in order to work out the intended meaning.
One day my brother Tom goes out fighting. As punishment, his father creeps up behind him with a whatever, but heavy, and probably sharp, and then, when he falls down, almost takes out his eye, exerts himself to kick in his ribs, beats him with a plank of wood that stands ready to hand, knocks in his face so that if I were not his own sister I’d barely recognise him: and my husband says, the answer to this, Thomas, is go for a soldier, go and find somebody you don’t know take out his eye and kick in his ribs, actually kill him, I suppose, and get paid for it.
I also found repetition, which I found irritating:
He hopes you are well. Hopes I am well. Hopes his lovely sisters Anne and little Grace are well. He himself is well.
and descriptions which didn’t make any sense to me:
A wash of sunlight lies over the river, pale as the flesh of a lemon.
I never think of lemons as being pale. Is it just me?
The more I read, the more I disliked this book. It was getting to the stage where I wanted to throw it across the room, and as this book is 650 pages long that would be a dangerous thing to do. For the safety of my household I decided to stop reading the book after about 120 pages – I just couldn’t face 500+ more pages of it.
I skim read the rest and had a quick look at the ending, but nothing I saw made me regret putting it down.
Recommended to anyone with a Tudor obsession, but I think the writing style and the length of this book will be off-putting to some people.
Hilary Mantel has written several other books, including Beyond Black, which was short listed for the Orange prize in 2006.
Have you read any of her books? What did you think of them?