Wolf Hall, and it’s two sequels, are a commitment. I had forgotten how much so.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m absolutely loving my reread of Wolf Hall, it’s just taking longer than I thought and it’s a much denser read than I remember from the first time around. Or maybe, it’s just that I’m taking more time with it, savouring the story, the character development and the wonderful descriptions of time and place. I’m not skimming the political machinations between Lord this and Lord that like I did last. Instead, I’m pulling out my Wolf Hall Companion by Lauren Mackay to flesh out who is who and why they are significant to Henry VIII, Katherine and/or Anne.
I had forgotten how much Mantel’s Cromwell was haunted by memories of his dead father. It’s only natural that the impact of such a violent man would continue to linger long after the threat was gone but I enjoyed seeing how Mantel used this to show us how resilient Cromwell had became as an adult and how his resourcefulness was born from these childhood terrors. Mantel then created moments of touching vulnerability that might indicate a personality suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. A clever mix of modern knowledge overlaid on top of historical fact and interpretation.
I had also thought the words Wolf Hall were not mentioned until the final page of the book. I was wrong. I have come across at least two references to the Seymour residence so far. It only changes slightly my feelings about how clever it was of Mantel to write a book all about Anne Boleyn (Henry VIII’s second wife) and her ascendency to Queen of England, all the while giving the title of the book to the home of the third wife of Henry VIII. It gives the reader an almost delicious sense of anticipation. All Anne’s manoeuvrings will come to nought, because waiting in the wings, unbeknownst to all of them, even Jane, is Jane Seymour.
I’m currently 68% through Wolf Hall and 45% through the Wolf Hall Companion.
The proposed schedule looks like this:
- February – Wolf Hall (reread)
- March – Bring Up the Bodies (reread)
- May – The Mirror and the Light
I mentioned in the Master Post that,
The April interlude is in case I fall behind for any reason. I don’t want to feel stressed or pushed for time. This will be a leisurely return to Tudor England, not a race.
I’m already grateful that I’ve given myself so much time for this readalong, seeing that it will not now be possible to start Bring Up the Bodies until at least the second week in March.
Theresa @Theresa Smith Writes had this to say about Wolf Hall recently,
This novel is a beast, of both burden and glory, and even after reaching the end – at last! – I was compelled to pick up Bring Up the Bodies immediately, so that I could keep reading about these historical figures whose fate I am already familiar with.
Eric @Lonesome Reader said,
The bulk of the story is made up of small moments and meetings between a few individuals who would steer the direction of the country: “The fate of peoples is made like this, two men in small rooms.”
If you’re reading along with me, how are you travelling?
- Have you worked out how to read around the ‘He, Cromwell’ device yet without having to reread every second page?
- Are you keeping up with all the cardinals and lords and ladies-in-waiting?
- How do you feel about Mantel’s version of Henry VIII?
- Are you in love with Thomas Cromwell like I am?
- What do you think of Anne and her power play to become Queen of England?
- How do you think Katherine managed the situation?
- Have you watched the recent TV series about Wolf Hall? How do they compare?
- And for something completely different – have you ever visited any of Henry VIII’s palaces IRL?