Book Look - Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel

If you are looking for yet another titillating tale of Henry VIII's love life - turn back! Go watch "The Tudors" or read "The Other Bolyn Girl"! After the first 50pgs of this dense, literary outing you'll be temped to skip ahead to the "juicy parts", only to discover there aren't any.

If you are looking for a thoughtful and detailed exploration of the politics/economics/religion/morals of the period - with particular emphasis on Thomas Cromwell's role in shaping them - then this isn't a bad place to start. It appears that Mantel's intent is twofold: (1) to shed new light on the events and impulses that shaped Cromwell into the complex man he became, and (2) to make the case that Cromwell was England's first "modern politician", a man who (by virtue of his background *not* as a member of the aristrocracy but as a mercenary, trader, and banker) understood that maintaining/strengthening national power was increasingly a matter of trade and economics rather than marriages between royal families.

If you are looking for a chance to sink into a good story, well told - well, I don't know what to tell you! This was blurbed by people a lot smarter than me, but I'm still struggling to understand why Mantel chose a prose style so difficult to comprehend. Her overreliance on pronouns rather than proper names (me: "shoot - which "he" is she talking about this time?"), inconsistent naming conventions, and "optional" use of quotation marks makes reading this a laborious process; often, I had to double back to read a passage 2-3 times before I was sure I understood who was saying what. Maybe the intent was to force readers to slow down so that they would fully appreciate the author's admittedly deft use of dialog, metaphors, double entendres and foreshadowing?

In other words, I'm of two minds ref. whether to recommend this book. While I appreciated the new insights into the period and the man (in fact, on the strength of this, I've picked up a bio of Thomas Cromwell to read next), and while I appreciated Mantel's obvious literary prowess, I felt like Mantel's prose style was more distracting than it had to be.

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