#WolfHallReadalong2021

We are all dying, just at different speeds.

The end is nigh.

For our Wolf Hall trilogy readalong and for Thomas Cromwell.

I hope you enjoyed your Tudor mini-break throughout April; I certainly did. But I am now more than ready to tackle the final episode in this courtly drama, The Mirror and the Light, starting on the 1st May.

  • February – Wolf Hall (reread)
  • March – Bring Up the Bodies (reread)
  • May – The Mirror and the Light

On the 24th February 2020, the Guardian said, ‘So the trilogy is complete, and it is magnificent.‘ 

The New Yorker titled their review on the 9th March 2020, Hubris and Delusion at the End of Hilary Mantel’s Tudor Trilogy.

The Independent on the 25th February 2020, said ‘From the razor-sharp opening paragraph to the dramatic ending 863 pages later, Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror & The Light is superb, right to the last crimson drop.’

On the 3rd March 2020, Kirsten Tranter in the SMH said,

Scrupulously detailed, psychologically acute, The Mirror and the Light marches the reader through less famous historical material including Henry’s next three marriages, a dramatic rebellion, political intrigue of mind-blowing intricacy, and a parade of gruesome state-sponsored executions, all rendered in arrestingly gorgeous prose. Mantel has perfected the distinctive voice of earlier volumes, an urgent present tense that takes the reader deep inside Cromwell’s calculating, troubled mind.

Various themes are being threaded throughout the trilogy (including one to do with fabric and clothing). Also watch out for Mantel’s use of ghosts, memory, myths and story-telling (the stories we tell to make sense of our lives and how they change with time and changing needs, the memories we chose to remember and how we weave these together), power and ambition, politics and the church, private life versus public life (portraits and role playing), father/son relationships and just how many Thomas’ can one book series have?

Have you noticed any other recurring themes or motifs in the Wolf Hall trilogy?

If you would like me to add your reviews of WH, BUTB and TMATL to the list, please link your review in the comments below. Current and historic posts welcome.

Readalong Posts:

Wolf Hall reviews:

Bring Up the Bodies reviews:

Related Posts:

#WolfHallReadalong2021

18 thoughts on “#WolfHallReadalong2021

  1. I started The Mirror & the Light two days ago and am finding it slow going, but still liking it. I am finding it easier to follow but have a feeling of dread.

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    1. I’m planning/hoping to start my copy tomorrow, if I can finish the two almost finished books by my bed today!

      I did wonder if that sense of dread would hang over the whole book, given that we all know how Thomas’ story ends.

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  2. What a fabulous project . You have another great in store with Mirror and Light. I loved it though it took me months to read. Her narrative style is so intense I could read only a few pages at a time

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    1. I’m hoping by reading them all so close together that I will fall into the narrative style of book 3 quickly. My weekend got busy, so I still have Square Haunting to finish before I can start Mirror and Light.

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  3. I am starting late, but I am starting. I had trouble borrowing Wolf Hall as an audiobook but I have it and Bring up the Bodies now, on Borrowbox. I’ve listened to them before and it seems to me they are great stories rather than great literature, but I might be in the minority on that.

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    1. Great to have you on board Bill.

      I’m curious to hear how Mantel’s ‘he, Cromwell’ approach translated into the audio. In book one, it wasn’t always easy to know if he was thinking or talking, as it was presented on the page.

      For me there is no doubt that the trilogy has literary merit, but I’m not sure it fits into highbrow lit. The labelling of literary fiction, genre fiction, general fiction etc is always fraught with differences of opinion of taste and style though.
      John Updike once said “the category of ‘literary fiction’ has sprung up recently to torment people like me who just set out to write books, and if anybody wanted to read them, terrific, the more the merrier”.

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  4. I have only just found this post, don’t know how I missed it!!! But I started reading the book at the beginning of the month, as planned. Anything I need to do now?

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    1. No. This is a very low key readalong. Feel free to ask questions or leave comments though – here or on Twitter using #WolfHallReadalong2021
      Glad you can join us Marianne 🤴

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      1. That sounds great. You might wait a long time waiting for a Twitter comment from me since I’m not on it. LOL. But I will definitely comment here, definitely once I’ve read it all.

        So far, I’m not as intrigued as I was with the first two but maybe I have read so much about the subject in the meantime that there are not many news in there.

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        1. I was concerned by what appeared to be lots of recapping early in TMATL, but then I realised that Mantel (I think) is trying to show us how haunted Cromwell is by his role in the execution of Anne and her men, so he keeps reliving the various conversations, going over and over what happened.

          After a hundred-odd pages, I do seem to have moved onto the problem of Mary now – glad to have the story moving onto the next thing finally.

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          1. For someone who hasn’t read the two previous books or doesn’t remember everything, it’s probably good that so much is repeated, some authors forget that from time to time. And it is a story about Cromwell, of course, and his downfall which has to come in this book. But yes, I like the parts with Mary, after all, she is also a very important part of the story.

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  5. I did finish The Mirror and the Light on May 23rd. Until about the last 100 pages I found it a very difficult read. Very dense, unusual style, hard to keep up the names vs. titles. Plus it was all focused on a downhill journey in his changing relationship with Henry VIII. It will be hard to review.

    I am very glad I read it all, and I know much more about English history than I did before. And yet there is so much that I still don’t know or understand. The relationships with other countries is a mystery to me.

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    1. Congratulations on finishing! Bravo!
      I’m still about 150 pages from the end & things are starting to get tricky for our Thomas.
      I confess I have found most of the book rather dull. Certainly not as sparkling and witty as the first two. And, yes, it will be hard to write a review for this one.

      Certainly one advantage in reading the 3 books so close together means all the names and titles are fairly straight in my mind. And although I haven’t read many books about Henry, I have read a few about his daughter, Elizabeth, so some of the politics and the relationships with other countries are familiar enough. The books certainly do assume that the reader has a certain knowledge of the time.

      Congrats once again Tracy & thank you for your participation 🙂

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  6. Brona, Last trip I listened to a composite disc of Wolf Hall, Bring out the Bodies, and some reading notes. Unfortunately I’ve run out of time to write a review (and to be honest, it’s already slipping from memory). Hilary Mantel tells a fascinating story and writes well, but 3 Bookers? That’s ridiculous. If they ever do retrospective Bookers will they give Jane Austen 3 for the 3 volumes of Pride & Prejudice? Of course not. And JA was an innovative writer whereas Mantel is just competent.

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    1. She only won two Bookers in the end. The Mirror and the Light was only longlisted.

      Part of the charm (for me) in the first 2 books was how the historic image of Cromwell as a nasty, manipulative man, was turned on it’s head by showing us his gentle manner with his family and his many private doubts and concerns. THATL has simply been too long. It was in need of a good, tight Jane Austen edit.

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