I wasn’t finding this a particularly easy book to read (or at least to listen to) until I was about halfway through. Then something clicked, and I rea..Show More »lised what it was about the writing that felt strange: there’s no plot - or should I say that the plot is so old and well known that the author doesn’t bother with it. The characters are real people from our past and their life stories are history: set in stone, in a thousand textbooks, their fates are already decided, even if it's only us - the readers - that know it. And Hilary Mantel presumes we do, and so, freed from twisting and shaping a plot, she concentrates on their language: their thoughts and inner voices; the words they might have spoken; even their body language is used to take us deep into their lives and motivations, and Hilary Mantel certainly can write. Whether it’s Thomas More intellectualising his inhumanity or a coarse fisherman going on about some prostitutes her writing is fluid and believable.
Thomas Cromwell was unknown to me before I started Wolf Hall but now I’ve got the feeling that he’s going to stay with me as one of the great (non?) fictional historical characters. (I don’t know, or really care, if this is a true portrait of Thomas Cromwell, but the author made a great decision by putting him at the heart of this pivotal moment in history.)
He’s a wonderfully complex man: his fidelity to his friends, family, masters and ideals contrasts with the ruthlessness of his politics; his drive to free England of the shackles of Rome is bizarrely made possible by the whims of his King, and he accepts this and uses it; and most of all, his comfortableness with the commoners combines beautifully with his ability to motivate and manipulate his betters.
The narrator - Simon Slater - gives every character their own distinctive voice and he adds depth, menace or lightness as needed. So, overall, not an easy read but a beautiful and worthy challenge.
Another astonishing tour de force from Hilary Mantel. A superb portrayal of a 'modern' politician in Tudor England - a brilliant, complex man both hum..Show More »ane and brutal, subtle and blunt, ambitious and patient. Beautifully written, deceptively simple in style with flowing narrative, startling, vivid images and perceptive comments on life and people delivered with searing clarity and it all seems so effortless.
Not as well read as by the reader of Wolf Hall (who is superb) - the voices for the different characters are not well defined and the accents poor - but the narrative is well read and it doesn't detract from the excellence of the book.