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.Authors, Book Club, Books, Giveaway · Tags: Anne Boleyn, Book Club, Book Reviews, Books, Giveaway, Henry VIII, Hilary Mantel, Historical Fiction, Man Booker Prize, Margareaders, Tudor History, Wolf Hall