Wolf Hall Readalong Check In

by Jessica Anderson on January 27, 2013

in Book Events

Wolf Hall Readalong

So, here we are, at the halfway mark in the Wolf Hall readalong hosted by me and Suey of It’s All About Books.

How is it going? I know some of you have finished already! Some are a little ahead. And some, like me, are fighting to keep up with the schedule. Whatever rate you are going along at, we’d love to hear how it’s going and how you respond to Hilary Mantel’s work.  And feel free to chime in on Twitter (#WolfHall) as things occur to you.

Here are my thoughts so far:

  • I really like Thomas Cromwell.  The deaths of his wife and children hit me pretty hard.
  • I’m surprised at the harsh portrayal of Sir Thomas More, but it is rather refreshing to see a dark side of him.
  • I am woefully uninformed about (1) The War of the Roses; (2) general British history, especially the succession of the monarchy; and (3) Catholicism.
  • The writing is at times beautiful, but I am often lost among the speakers and the jumps in time and the name-dropping.
  • While the ride has been a bit bumpy for me so far, I am enjoying the perspective.
  • I am probably going to need to read some nonfiction about this period soon.

To assist you as you read or as a resource once you’re done, here are some websites that discuss Wolf Hall and/or Hilary Mantel:

I’d love to hear about any helpful resources you’ve come across and how you’re doing so far. What are your thoughts on this historical tome?

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Jenny January 27, 2013 at 1:54 pm

Oh, my brain could not handle this book right now. Good luck.

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Jessica January 27, 2013 at 5:56 pm

Thanks, Jenny. My brain is struggling with it right now too.

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Amber Stults January 27, 2013 at 6:43 pm

I don’t have much reference point myself regarding English history but I did recall how Henry’s desire/love for Anne broke the Roman Catholic Church’s ties with England. And he kept getting married because he wanted a son. That movie, The Other Boleyn Girl, (with Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson) was horrible but can give an idea visually of the politics and intrigue going on behind closed doors.

I just began Part III today. I am really enjoying the book.

Cromwell, I suppose, is someone a lot of Americans can identify with. He came from nothing, made his way in the world, and found his way into the good graces of Henry. It’s like the English 1500′s version of the American dream. The softness given to his character in regards to his late wife and daughters is not surprising. I mentioned on Twitter how his station in life let him marry the woman he wanted. What I didn’t mention was how lucky he was to be able to keep his family life away from his business dealings and his work for Cardinal Wolsey. An aristocrat such as Norfolk would’ve used Cromwell’s feelings against him.

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Jessica January 27, 2013 at 10:25 pm

I did have some knowledge about Henry VIII exploits, but other than that, I’m in the dark! I also need to brush up on my European geography.

You make an excellent point about Cromwell being a man that Americans, in particular, can identify with. And your point about keeping his family out of it is the only bright side I can see about his personal tragedies.

I’m looking forward to the rest of the book. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts.

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Suey January 28, 2013 at 2:23 pm

I’m just starting part 3 too…trying to stick with the schedule (meaning both keep up and not read ahead!)

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Suey January 28, 2013 at 2:28 pm

I’m enjoying it, but it is really hard to follow sometimes. She is breaking so many normal writer rules! The pronoun thing AND the conversation quote thing… sometimes there are there, and sometimes they are not. It’s very confusing. I wonder what her point was in writing it that way.

But I agree with all your points. Cromwell is surprisingly human and likable. I just never really pictured him that way, or any way at all really! I tend to keep wanting to put all these characters in a category… the good guys and the bad guys! But which is which, I have no idea! And is Cromwell a good guy or a bad? I guess I tend to lump those fighting for Henry to be able to get a divorce as the bad guys, which means, I suppose, I’m on the Catholic side of things! I don’t know, I just always felt bad for Katherine, the first wife.

And I’m still not sure what Cromwell wants. He doesn’t seem to want Anne Bolelyn to have power, but he does want to make the King happy. So, he himself is all confused too.

That’s what I think! :) Whew, I better write my own half way done post!

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Jessica January 28, 2013 at 9:43 pm

Yes! The rule-breaking doesn’t drive me as crazy as the inconsistency of the breaking of them does.

I feel bad for Catherine, but I also admire Cromwell, so we’ll see how I come out in the end.

I look forward to your post!

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Cindi January 29, 2013 at 11:05 am

I had to finish Wolf Hall–just couldn’t stop.

The writing style definitely takes work. It took me about 50 pages to get (mostly) used to the Cromwell/pronoun thing and found myself needing to reread sections for comprehension regularly.

I find the new viewpoint of the history from Cromwell’s view absolutely fascinating. I’ve always seen the English break with the Catholic church as an essential, though perhaps not inspired, part of the necessary events of the reformation so I’m normally sympathetic to Cromwell and Henry VIII. It’s interesting to see Cromwell as a human with deep emotions and a brilliant sense of self-promotion. The deaths of his wife and daughters were particularly tender and Mantel excels at creating that honest emotion for the reader.

I still feel bad for Catherine and Mary. Allison Weir’s history THE SIX WIVES OF HENRY VIII details just how uncomfortable life got for Catherine.

I’m anxious to keep talking with you about WOLF HALL as you continue reading.

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Jo @ Booklover Book Reviews January 30, 2013 at 1:26 am

I just happen to have been listening to Wolf Hall in audio for what seems like ages now, and sounds like I am up to a similar spot in the novel as you. I am not finding it the easiest book to get through but Cromwell is such an intriguing and complex character I will definitely continue. I too have learned I am woefully uninformed in respect to British history.

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