Book Club: Wolf Hall

Reading books, especially fiction, has always been one of my favourite ways to unwind, and I’m making sure to keep it up while at Makers Academy, just to prevent me from going crazy with all of the code. I find time to read during the train journeys to and from the course, as well as just before bed. The only thing I’m missing out on is someone to discuss what I’m reading with. So, the plan is to write some brief comments on my latest read and hope that those who have read the book too will also share their thoughts!

Hilary Mantel’s ‘Wolf Hall’ has been on my book shelf for over a year now, but it wasn’t until the sequel, ‘Bring Up The Bodies’, matched the first in the series by also winning the Man Booker Prize, that I became more curious about its contents. The novel is set in the first half of the 16th Century, acting as a fictionalised biography of Thomas Cromwell’s rise to power in Henry VIII’s court. It’s a large book, at almost 700 pages, and though it took me a while to get into it, I was fully immersed by the end.

I found it hard to place myself at the beginning of the book, where Mantel’s choice of present tense narrative is combined with her flitting between different time periods. On top of that, you’re being introduced to a multitude of characters on every page. Due to this, it was difficult to follow character development and their relationships between one another, making the context and intention of their actions and dialogue tricky to infer.

However, Mantel knows how to set a scene and foster the feelings of tension, uncertainty, and distrust that surrounded the beginnings of the English Reformation and the king’s desperation for a male heir. I came round to the present tense narrative, getting drawn in to Cromwell’s character, discovering this conflict between feeling that I had gotten to know him well, whilst finding him more and more mysterious as the pages went on. I’m very keen to get onto the next book now, feeling invested in the story, and my basic history knowledge means that I know some of what is to come. You quickly learn that in Henry VIII’s court, nobody was ever safe, no matter who they were, and I want to see who gets into trouble next.

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