I’ll get to the giveaway details in a moment, but first, the background:

The third meeting of the Margareaders was held last night.  The book of choice for this month?  Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel.  I will be honest and say this book did not go over very well with the group.  Less than half of our members came to the meeting (not all because of the book – there were legitimate conflicts, illnesses and so on), and of those of us who participated, only two (myself included) made it past the halfway point.

Why the lackluster response when the book won the 2009 Man Booker Prize and bookstores can barely keep fictionalized accounts of the Tudor period in stock for their flying off the shelves?  Well, it’s a pretty cumbersome read.  The last time it took me this long to finish a book was when I read Anna Karenina, and the similarities don’t stop there.  As with Anna, I found myself constantly referring to the cast of characters because eight tenths of the people are named Thomas (in Anna it was Alexei or Nikolai).  Those that aren’t Thomas are named Henry or Edward.  Also, the material is pretty dense.  Mantel provides excruciating detail over events and settings you wish she’d just gloss over and get to the point already.  If I had not already immersed myself in the characters of this time period through other books and, okay I admit it, The Tudors series on Showtime, I’m pretty sure I would have given up well before reaching the halfway point.  Also, there’s the entertainment factor.  The Guardian said it best by describing Wolf Hall as a “non-frothy” historical novel.  In other words, this is not a historical bodice ripper.  If you’re looking for lustful scenes between King Henry and Anne Boleyn, best to pick up Philippa Gregory.  Mantel can run circles around Gregory in historical accuracy and scholarly writing, but Gregory wins hands down for the “fun factor.”  Finally, and this may be a nit-picky thing, the book is written in third-person present tense, which can be disorienting.  Mantel refers to “he” throughout the book.  Usually “he” referred to Cromwell, but since “he” (Cromwell) was almost always talking to other men, it was hard to keep it straight sometimes.

Having said all that, I did finish the book, and I’m glad I did.  The story of Henry VIII has been told from almost every angle except through the eyes of Thomas Cromwell, which is kind of amazing when you consider he was the architect of the king’s divorce from Katherine of Aragon and the reformation of the Church in England.  For that reason alone, I recognize Wolf Hall’s contribution to literature and feel it’s deserving of the awards it has received.  The writing (aside from the POV issue mentioned earlier) is superb and the character of Cromwell exceptionally drawn.  Again, The Guardian gets it right by saying, “Mantel persuasively depicts Thomas Cromwell as one of the most appealing — and, in his own way, enlightened — characters of the period.”

So, do you want the book?  If so, leave a comment anywhere on the blog between now and midnight (MDT) on Wednesday, April 14th OR tweet or retweet this post between now and then.  Every comment and/or tweet will count as an entry.  If you comment on a post other than this one, just put WH at the end of the post so I know you want it to count toward the giveaway.  I’ll announce the winner on Thursday morning, April 15th.  What a better way to spend the 15th than obsessing about taxes, right?

Read or own the book already?  Comment anyway!  Let us know what you thought of the book.  Did anyone else read Wolf Hall for a book club?  I’d be interested in knowing how it was received in other book clubs.

Meanwhile, have a great weekend everyone.

Categories: Authors, Book Club, Books, Giveaway · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

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22 Comments

  1. Hi there!

    I’m portuguese and just found your blog because of this giveaway.
    The book was launched one week ago here and I want to read it, but in the original would be much better.
    Count me in on the giveaway, ok?

    Best wishes!

  2. Since I am obsessed with the tudor period and have read more historical fiction than I can even count about Henry VIII and his ilk, I thought I would throw my hat in the ring. I think its interesting no one had written this “story” from Cromwell’s perspective since he so pivot ….
    Anyway I hope you guys are doing well. I am enjoying the blog.

    XO, Zoe

  3. Julie, I would love to enter. I know the book has been hit or miss — I’ve been warned, and I’m hoping I’m a “hit”. Thanks! Take care.

  4. I would love to be entered. Thanks.

  5. Hi! I’m so glad I found your blog thanks to your giveaway of “Wolf Hall.” It’s a very interesting blog. I’ve subscribed. 🙂

    As for “Wolf Hall,” I tried ~ really tried ~ to read it, but the writing (specifically the use of third person present tense, as you pointed out) defeated me. I really love historical fiction from ancient Rome and Greece (and further back) to the 19th Century, and especially the Middle Ages. Fascinating time and people. So I really thought this would be like mother’s milk to me. Nope. I didn’t even get to page 50 before I realized it was not for me, or at least not at this time. I’m always willing to give a book a second (sometimes third) chance, as I thankfully did with “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” and the first novel of the Thursday Next series, both of which I hated the first time I tried to read them and which I absolutely loved after giving them a second chance.

    So, all of the long-winded explanation is to preface my request to be put in the running for a copy of “Wolf Hall” in the hope that, having it on my bookshelf, I might give it a second go and like it.

    Thanks for hosting the contest. I’ll also tweet about it (I’m @Storeetllr on Twitter).

    Mary

    • Mary,

      Thanks for your comments on the blog and for subscribing!

      With Wolf Hall, I think you really have to power through the first 250 pages. It gets better after that, but I can absolutely understand why people don’t make it. I doubt I would have myself if it hadn’t been my choice for the book club.

  6. I listened to it on audio and loved it, but really want a hardcopy to go back and see what I missed. For me it is one I definitely want to re-read. Count me in.

    Thanks for the contest.

  7. I’d like to enter to win this, but I don’t do FB or tweet yet, so this is my only entry. Thanks for the opportunity!

    Amy

  8. Excellent review–it’s often more informative to read something by someone who didn’t love the book in question than to read a tongue-bath.

    I’d love to be entered in your Wolf Hall giveaway and I’ve bookmarked your blog.

    Kay

  9. I read nearly anything, and also like how you dont sugar coat anything…so many blogs do, and it’s better to have an honest opinion. Count me in on this will give it a go!

    @tannawings on Twitter- just gave ya a tweet and also (I think) signed up for newsletter!

  10. Oh, please count me in!
    🙂

  11. I respect your book group for choosing such a long book. The groups I was part of wanted shorter works. Dave + I have since formed our own book club. 🙂

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