Hoookay so Wolf Hall is about the life of Thomas Cromwell, courtier and advisor of Henry VIII- you know Henry VIII, yes? He of the many wives? Excellent. Moving on. Let me start by saying that I have a history degree and tend to get a bit STABBY when historical fiction is blatantly inaccurate, and this is not that. Mantel's research was obviously meticulous. Apparently she made files for each character that had their whereabouts on all the particular dates in her novel. Girlfriend was PREPARED. This is some IMPRESSIVE SCHOLARLY SHIZ. PHILLIPA GREGORY LICKS HER SHOES.
The prose is crazy-impressive but also challenging. The POV shifts and it isn't always immediately clear who is doing the thinking/talking (when in doubt: it's Cromwell), and it sometimes pokes its little prose-y turtle head over into stream-of-consciousness so you have to actually pause and go, wait. What does that have to do with anything? And then the brilliance of the thought comes to you and you cry a little. Or, you know, whatever.
So the book is accurate, and it's brilliantly written, and it successfully makes Thomas Cromwell sympathetic which is a feat in and of itself. But I do have a few qualms: it could've been about 50 pages shorter, and Henry himself is just sort of...there. Being a jackass. I want to KNOOWWWW what was in his mind- what does a man think when he abandons his wife of 20 years for her servant? What does a man think when he sends someone to be burned or drawn and quartered? How does a man destroy an entire church system (not that it was a good one, mind) so that he can have his way?
But the book isn't really about him, so. More relevant to the book- how does a person like Cromwell help him do all of that? The only answer I can think of and the only one Mantel really presents is ambition and daddy issues. Maybe it was that simple.
It's obviously thought provoking, and hard to think about through the film that covers my American, democratic mind.
This is also stream of thoughts I had while reading Wolf Hall: Thomas More was suuuccchh an icky guy, what with the burning of all the people and the torturing of all the other people (and sometimes the same people). Can't believe that guy wrote Utopia. Though, thinking back, I thought Utopia was silly and gross. And now I won't ever be able to respect Drew Barrymore in Ever After ever again because she likes that book so much. WAY TO RUIN A 90s MOVIE FOR ME, HILARY. WAY TO GO.
To summarize: Wolf Hall- hard but rewarding prose, fascinating portrayal of Thomas Cromwell and Thomas More, not-so-fascinating portrayal of King Henry, a bit too long, but worth it.
Four stars out of your mom.