1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars
A highly descriptive interpretation of historical events, 7 Dec 2011
Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall is understandably an award winning novel. It contains a copious amount of historical detail regarding the Tudors and brings the facts to life through a highly descriptive tale. Mantel tends to write novels about personal memoirs or historical periods and, as a winner of numerous awards in the past, it came as no surprise that the `Man Booker Prize' would coin this novel as the best in 2009.
Wolf Hall is written during Henry VIII's reign and portrays the events which occurred between 1500 and 1535. There are two significant storylines that run alongside each other. The first is Thomas Cromwell's rise to fame, starting from his troubled childhood all the way through to his great success as one of Henry VIII's most powerful courtiers. The second is Henry's obvious lust for Anne Boleyn and his constant struggle to produce an appropriate heir to the throne. Mantel adds great depth to these unforgettable events through constant dialogue between the characters, providing descriptive detail to help create a true sense of reality.
The story is told from Cromwell's perspective in the present tense, allowing the reader to feel as though you are travelling through time with him. You grow to understand his true feelings about the other characters, which in many cases isn't good. I found this style helpful in understanding the main content of what was going on but it started to get confusing when different people were talking. `He' came to mean a large number of people in one dialogue. Mantel does pay a huge amount of attention to the variety of characters which contribute to the story as at the very front of the novel you are provided with a character list, identifying who appears in each chapter. However, a grand total of 95 characters can make it quite hard to keep track.
I absolutely loved learning about the Tudors when I was at school, so finding a novel that paid close attention to the trials and tribulations of Henry VIII's reign seemed like the perfect choice. Initially, the huge amount of pages made me nervous about reading it and, I have to admit, it did take me quite a while to really get absorbed into the text. It is very clear to see how much research was carried out by the author, but on occasions the facts seemed to take over, making it quite tedious and lengthy. There is a regular reference to French terminology which did make a lot of dialogue confusing. In many cases it didn't seem very relevant for it to be included.
I would definitely recommend Wolf Hall to someone with a great interest in the Tudors. After finishing the novel, I feel as though I have been in a month long history lesson. I think it's a book that needs to be read twice in order to completely understand what is going on, but I'm opting for a slightly less heavy book before I pick it up again.