#WolfHallReadalong2021 Update

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?

12 thoughts on “#WolfHallReadalong2021 Update

  1. I’m about a third in at this point, but I am loving it on rereading as well. I have gotten used to the stylistic quirks, like he, Cromwell, but it does take some getting used to.

    Isn’t Cromwell such a likeable figure in this? I remember thinking the first time I read it, he was a little too likeable, so good with women and children, so responsible, etc., that it kind of made him an unlikely figure for the 1500s, but I didn’t care. I’m having the same thought again: he’s too nice, but I don’t care!

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    1. Now I’m closer to end of WH I’m starting to spot the odd sentence, almost hidden, that would suggest the tougher choices and tougher side of Cromwell. I’ll see if I can find one to highlight what I mean.
      To me it seems like Mantel is saying, this kind family is the real Cromwell, but some of the decisions he has to make at work, are just that. Things he has to do to stay in the good books and not end up in the Tower himself. It’s like his job is to be the ‘bad cop’ to Henry’s ‘good cop’.

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  2. Travelling is what I have stopped doing. Because of the requirement to isolate for 14 days I have to stop work at least that long before any social commitments and my daughter is celebrating her marriage later this month. So no audiobooks, no Wolf Hall till April but I will do my best to catch up then.

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    1. Oh how exciting, a family wedding!
      That should take precedence over everything else 🙂

      Henry, Cromwell and Anne will be waiting for you whenever you get the time.

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  3. I agree with you. Reading the first two books I also fell in love with Thomas Cromwell. Looking forward to the third instalment and might read along.

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  4. I finished Wolf Hall (my first read of it) and was pleasantly surprised by it. I found Cromwell a very appealing character and was able to follow all the people pretty well — Mantel’s use of very short sections really helped me keep things clear as I read. I expect to start Bring Up the Bodies shortly.

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    1. Bravo! And yes the short sections within the longer chapters make it easy to pick up and put down and catch your breath between scenes.
      It’s my day off work tomorrow, so I’m hoping to finish WH then.

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