#15 Wolf Hall

The wedding went well, I’m sure you were wondering. I will maybe tell you more later this week once I have gathered some more photos (I had no time to take any so I will be relying heavily on facebook!)…

Also this weekend, I think I may have completed another of my List of 26 Things.  #17 is “travel to a new country”. I need to double check with my parents but I don’t believe I have been to Luxembourg before. On Sunday we had a friend staying from Denmark and we drove down to Luxembourg (the country), spent some time in the capital (also Luxembourg) and then drove along the wine route which is the river that marks the border between Germany and Luxembourg.

I also discovered that Schengen is actually a place. Not just a wonderful free travel zone in Europe.

If it turns out Luxembourg was a brand new country for me, I’ll type it up as a proper blog post with pictures and everything.

In the meantime I will get to the point of this post. Which is that I have two new books to write about so clearly am doing well with point #15: read one book a month. Technically July is already spoken for, so this first book (come back tomorrow for the other one!) will count for June since I think I started it way back then. Maybe even in May. Actually definitely in May because I was reading it in California.

Yes, I finally finished reading Wolf Hall.

This was a gift from my Auntie Allie at Christmas (or was it birthday? Birthday I think – I recall it coming in the post) and I was a grateful recipient because a) I adore historical fiction and b) it had just won the Booker prize which made me quite want to read it, being a wannabe-book snob.

The first thing I can say is it is LONG. A dense 650 pages long. So if detailed Tudor history is not your thing, this one is not for you. The plot is not particularly fast – the author Hilary Mantel really does go into detail of every thing that Cromwell did – but somehow it managed to still keep my interest. I only put off finishing it so long because I wrongly assumed the book would end with Cromwell’s execution and I had become quite attached to Mantel’s vision of Cromwell (if you don’t know your British history and I just spoiled the whole thing for you, apologies) But the book doesn’t end that way and apparently there’s a sequel on it’s way…

The Cromwell that Mantel writes is sympathetic but still quite mysterious. She writes in the present tense all the time, nearly always referring to Cromwell as “He” which makes you feel incredibly close to him and all the action around him. And yet at the same time, his thoughts and emotions are not laid bare so you must guess or infer from his actions or words to others. Yet there are moments of intense emotion, particularly around the death of his young daughters which haunts him throughout the book. I admired all the way through the way he worked, managing people around him, managing King Henry, carefully choosing his words, his approach, depending on who he was speaking to. You got this amazing sense of what a powerful person he was, not because of his title or position (he was the son of a blacksmith) but because he was just really that good a business man and strategist.

Also really interesting to me was the sub-story of the Reformation going through, of which Cromwell was a huge driver. He uses Henry’s political and romantic interests to further a cause which is actually very close to his heart. I felt his deep desire throughout to see the English people have the scriptures in English, to rid the church of all the lies and politics and greed. It was quite a profound part of the story for me.

Most of all, I just liked Cromwell.

Which is perhaps why the 650 pages did not feel so difficult to read. Bring on the sequel!