Wolf Hall–too complex for my summer brain?

My husband, at gift-giving occasions, heads to our local bookstore, Copperfield’s, and gets help from the front desk.  “My wife just read x, y & z.  What should I buy her?”  Luckily Copperfield’s knows their stuff.  He walks out with two or three neatly wrapped books just for me.

This is how I acquired Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, I think, for my birthday back in October.  It’s taken this long to finish.

Not that I was reading and rereading, or picking up and setting down–there are plenty of books like that around here.  No, with Wolf Hall, I tried once, set it down and left it there.  Too many names, vague use of pronouns…

I picked it up again out of pure desperation.  I had ravenously devoured three books in Kauai and arrived home with nothing new to read.  Wolf Hall.  It’s Henry VIII for crying out loud!  I should know all these people!  So I tried it again.  Not bad.

It follows Henry VIII’s reign (mainly the dumping of Katherine and acquiring of Anne) through the rise of Thomas Cromwell.  Thomas is likable–humble beginnings, uses his knowledge, holds his cards close, ruthless without being cruel, loves his family, loyal to his masters.

“Not bad” comes from the lack of ending.  I needed something a bit more wrapped up.  I get the tone that Hilary was going for.  Thomas is a workaholic and the story ends with his busy life serving the king, but it didn’t satisfy me.

So, do I recommend it?  Not sure.  I enjoy this era and the intrigue, but slogging through the families, titles and power struggles is not for everyone.  It can be tedious to look back if you aren’t holding it the information and lineage your mind very well.

It won the Man Booker Prize in 2009 so, for me, that makes it worth reading.  I have loved 99.9% of the books that win or are finalists for that award–good job Booker folks!


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