i have read four of her books now, and have only really liked one beyond black but i keep trying this one was for class, but i probably would have read it anyway, because this summer i read a nice fat bio of henry VIII and really enjoyed a lot of characters in his court but it is so frustrating, reading historical fiction or biographies this is only my third tudor book because, yes, i totally read the other boleyn girl , and the malleability of history and the filters through which authors present these people is terribly inconsistent, depending on their own prejudices i loved chupuys in the weir book, but here he is so foppish and weird like a less fuckable david bowie in labyrinth sometimes mary boleyn is a victim, sometimes she is cold and calculating, sometimes she is just a party girl depending on who is telling me the story damn apologists there were sections of writing i loved here, but most of it was flat, to me.
i thought the opening was great, and the last 60 pages or so were fairly rollicking, but for some reason much of the middle seemed arid, but peppered with episodes i loved i am glad that i read it, and a lot of my resistance may have just been my poor fever riddled brain s inability to concentrate for any reasonable period of time, but i m not swayed to mantelmania just yet try try again.
addition can someone help me with this, because i am getting conflicting opinions from people i trust equally please tell me how to pronounce chupuys one smart person said it was pronounced cha pwah , and another smart person made it rhyme with pepys fix this rift for me please.
come to my blog For the first 100 pages I was like a Monkees song, you know the one Cue cute organ guitar intro I thought great historical novels about the 16th century were only true in fairy talesMeant for someone else but not for meMmm, historical novelists were out to get meThat s the way it seemedDisappointment haunted all my dreams Then I read Wolf Hall Now I m a believer Not a trace of doubt in my mind Ooh I m in love Ooh Hilary Mantel I couldn t leave you if I triedBut then some strange things began to percolate through to my sluggish oily consciousness, beetling my brows and causing pushed out bottom lip expressions to become prominent The style is great, all that detail, every surface covered, you never see the props manager or the mike boom, the brocades and all the grey velvet actually seem real what budget did this novel get but.
I noticed that although we crawl along with Thomas Cromwell inch by inch, hour by hour, Hilary Mantel never, never, never mentions how her hero actually feels about anything, never mentions his thoughts, his worries, his concerns, his interior It s all surface What he said, his gestures, the way he looked, what he knew, what he ate, how he knew how to cook it, who he yelled at, who he was kind to children and animals, aah this is what we get what he thought he was up to or could or couldn t achieve, his fears, who he hated, all that, has to be inferred this is the poster novel for show don t tell this shows everything, almost, and tells nothing.
That that is a deliberately chosen technique is clear and you must appreciate if you cannot celebrate or accept if you cannot appreciate But if you can t get on board with it this novel is going to drive you into the arms of a therapist.
AT THE THERAPIST SDr Rayner So what s been happening this week Reader of Wolf Hall Well, it s er er Thomas.
Dr Rayner professionally covering up his increasing irritation Ah, Thomas Again.
ROWH He he just never tells me anything I have to guess, all the time Dr Rayner Ah ha, um Yes ROWH I feel so close to him, and yet Dr Rayner And yet so distant.
ROWH Ah, you know, you know Dr Rayner s eyes dart about, as if seeking a sympathetic face But there is none.
There s There s a brilliant JG Ballard short story called The Garden of Time A guy potters around in his beautiful garden and in the mid distance he can see an enormous hostile army approaching across the landscape It seems to be in slow motion Every day it s a little nearer Neither he nor his wife has any thoughts of moving away They look after the exquisite flowers, they repot plants, they discuss borders It s a great metaphor Wolf Hall is in slow motion There s the painfully attenuated downfall of Cardinal Wolsey Then there s the even excruciatingly drawn out overarching issue of the Great Matter of the King s Divorce, or Annulment, whatever Off with the Katherine and on with the Anne So here s a funny thing After the great Cardinal Wolsey and he is a great character, I loved him after he s dead and gone, none of this is plot spoiler, this is history it s quite a trick to write a long story which everyone knows and still have them queuing round the block I was scratching my head and thinking that although I d been hearing so much of and about Cardinal Wolsey he is the Penn to Thomas Cromwell s Teller in the months days hours minutes seconds of his huge demise I still couldn t figure out exactly why why why King Henry turned on him in such fury A quick Wikipedia gave me this Wolsey had failed to get the King s marriage annulled and was dismissed from public office in 1529 Wolsey then began a secret plot to have Anne Boleyn forced into exile and began communicating with the Pope to that end When this was discovered, Henry ordered Wolsey s arrestWhoah Unless I fell asleep during the crucial bit, that is not in the book Don t you think it should be Might help explain things a bit better How strange of Hilary.
So if Hilary Mantel wrote a novel about the Kennedy assassination you would have got lots of detailed scenes of life at the court of the Kennedys, the domestic problems of the Oswalds, their life in Russia, what the crowds were saying on the Dealey Plaza, but when the motorcade appeared she would cut immediately to the autopsy and the comments of the surgeons and their family situations We would get a few scenes with Jack Ruby and his pals, but next thing you know he d be under arrest Huh, what happened It s like being on the inside, but the outside of the inside.
What are we taught about drama Exposition, complication, resolution comedy exposition, conflict, catastrophe tragedy What does Hilary do Throws the rules away Hilary, and this goes double for A Place of Greater Safety, her vast novel about the French Revolution, goes for exposition, complication, exposition, and exposition, complication Where s the conflict Off stage Is this a problem It is going to be, for some people Quentin Tarantino fans, players of Thrill Kill and Mortal Kombat, you know, impatient types.
NOT ZOMBIES OR PUPPETSBut historical novelists, especially those like Hilary who embroider their worlds so lavishly, and set the right birds in each tree at the right angle, and the weeds underfoot, and the stench of the straw in the barn, and the wounds of a knife fight as well as each bauble, buckle, bead, biggins and bodice I think do us a grand service, re plugging us back into the people who we were, making it possible to think that life did indeed go on in almost recognisable forms 500 years ago It s like claiming these lives back, scraping off the encrustings of ignorance and they don t look like zombies or puppets Some literature fans tend to get their sneery faces on and call historical fiction middlebrow They do Although I know what they mean, there are brows brows class , there are three main classes and they each have a brow, it s straightforward enough What are Darconville s Cat, Wittgenstein s Mistress, The Pale King, Invisible Cities, Ulysses, Mrs Dalloway and Life A User s Guide Highbrow a clue is in the fact that none of them can tell a story worth a damn but the things they do with language constitute a legal high So then, lowbrow must be the mindless genre churn you get in the lovely world of er Romance, for instance they have titles like Come Away with Me, This Man, Dark Soul, Beautiful Disaster Probably that sounds insulting to Romance fans but hey, come on, you know this stuff is popcorn and not haute cuisine, right You ain t kidding yourselves are you And there s all kinds of interesting authors who rescued formerly lowbrow genres and made them into middlebrow literature Hammett and Chandler for detective stories, McMurtry for Westerns, Ballard and a zillion others for science fiction which was originally considered to be as wretched as the other low genres but I am wandering from the subject which is everything that s not high or low is in the middle that s in the Bible, Habbakuk 10 4 Therefore Hilary Mantel is middlebrow.
Okay, so what, we can t dine on foi gras all the livelong day, but if this is middle it s somewhere near the top of the middle bangin on the ceiling, and eventually, who cares about these distinctions.
The Great Matter of the King s Divorce a historical noteYeah, you can think that this was some egotistical tyrannical English king thinking with his royal member and stamping on the floor until he got what he wanted even if that meant excommunication and the sundering of the Church, but actually he wanted an heir a son because of the succession, because if the succession wasn t clear and undisputed, there would be a certain return of the fratricidal civil war which had gone on for 50 years prior to Henry s father s victory so it wasn t, in fact, a trivial matter.
Two great quotesCromwell is faced with a recalcitrant noble who s making a terrible fuss about his ancient rights and privileges How can he explain it to him The world isn t run from where he thinks Not from his border fortresses, not even from Whitehall The world is run from Antwerp, from Florence, from places he has never imagined from Lisbon, from where the ships with sails of silk drift west and are burned up in the sun Not from castle walls but from counting houses, not by the call of the bugle but by the click of the abacus, not by the grate and click of the mechanism of the gun but by the scrape of the pen on the page of the promissory note that pays for the gun and the gunsmith and the powder and shot.
and When have I ever forced anyone to do anything, he starts to say but Richard cuts in, No you don t, I agree, it s just that you are practised at persuading, and sometimes it s quite difficult, sir, to distinguish being persuaded by you from being knocked down in the street and stamped on This novel took me so many hours to read but you know I don t want them back, Hilary Mantel can keep them.
England In The S Is A Heartbeat From Disaster If The King Dies Without A Male Heir, The Country Could Be Destroyed By Civil War Henry VIII Wants To Annul His Marriage Of Twenty Years And Marry Anne Boleyn The Pope And Most Of Europe Opposes Him Into This Impasse Steps Thomas Cromwell A Wholly original Man, A Charmer And A Bully, Both Idealist And Opportunist, Astute In Reading People, And Implacable In His Ambition But Henry Is Volatile One Day Tender, One Day Murderous Cromwell Helps Him Break The Opposition, But What Will Be The Price Of His Triumph The thing to remember when starting this book is that 99% percent of the time the pronoun he refers to Cromwell, even at times when the sentence structure makes it seems like he would be someone else It took me a short while to realize this, but once I did, I was fine You are in Cromwell s head you see everything from his perspective As he reacts to others reactions of him many times, he is bemused to see how he is thought of another layer of characterization is added.
This novel is beautifully written with unique descriptions I love when authors can pull that uniqueness off not easy to do sprinkled here and there Cromwell is fascinating and drawn sympathetically by Mantel and even surprisingly charming in his interactions with family members and certain others Though that s not to say that he doesn t use some of these others either And he s funny Though all of this is done, oh, so, subtly.
It s said that historical fiction is as much about the time during which it s written as it is about the time it s set in And through Mantel s eyes, we see the similarities of the time periods political intrigue, as messy and incestuous then as it is now I thought I was done with Tudor historical fiction I ve read so much of it through the years but this book is different.
You won t understand the novel s title until later in the book, and I won t explain it here, as I got excited a rare emotion when reading seeing the meanings unfold, and I wouldn t want to spoil that for anyone I also got very excited as I read this quote page 394 Suppose within each book there is another book, and within every letter on every page another volume constantly unfolding but these volumes take no space on the desk Suppose knowledge could be reduced to a quintessence, held within a picture, a sign, held within a place which is no place Suppose the human skull were to become capacious, spaces opening inside it, humming chambers like beehives I felt as if I had found the key to the whole book This is one of those long novels that I loved living with and hated to see end, one of those experiences which causes you not to want to rush off to read something else, because you re still soaking in the one you ve just finished.
I treat this novel as a qualified failure of an experiment qualified since I am open to the possibility that the failure was mine and I sincerely wish that Mantel does not win the Booker this year I just cannot bring myself to spend any time with her lifeless narrator.
More than anything else Wolf Hall seemed to me to be a literary experiment on how closely a woman can get into a man s mind, and as far as I am concerned, a qualified failure I could never truly feel that the narration was being executed by a male voice, it was as if a woman narrator residing inside a captive male character was telling the story and every time a he or his comes along, it resulted in a string of confused stumblings over adjectives before I remembered again many times that it is of himself that the narrator is talking about Eventually I came to understand the reason for this jarring feeling it was not because I was not reading thoroughly enough, it was because I couldn t think of the narrator as a he it just didn t cut it, especially when he she informed me with wonder of how men embrace other men.
I wish Mary Boleyn had been the narrator, she was the only real person in this narrative peopled by artificial characters, only she had an authentic voice to me and I can t help but feel that she was the character that Mantel most identified with the novel came alive and took such vibrancy every time Mary entered the narrator s field of vision, like a deprived woman lighting up at the sight of a beautiful mirror to finally examine herself As I said, I am open to the fact that my bad experience was due to a failure of imagination on my part, so I hope fans of this book will take pity on my deprived pleasure and be gentle in their recriminations.
Come to think of it I really cannot think of any book I have read in which a novelist tries to get so intimate with the mind of a narrator of the opposite sex So maybe my problem was not a failure of imagination but a poverty of literary experience as I haven t encountered such an effort before maybe I need to read some Hardy.
I also believe that if there were less Thomas s in the story, I could have still come out the better in this expedition So there.
The fate of peoples is made like this, two men in small rooms Forget the coronations, the conclaves of cardinals, the pomp and processions This is how the world changes a counter pushed across a table, a pen stroke that alters the force of a phrase, a woman s sigh as she passes and leaves on the air a trail of orange flower or rose water her hand pulling close the bed curtain, the discrete sigh of flesh against flesh Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown but really, crown wearers seem to have little difficulty with fabrication Do they mean lie, as in lying down I mean I would take it off before going to bed It might get pretty uncomfortable trying to sleep with that thing still on Wouldn t it be accurate to say uneasy sits the head that wears the crown, although that creates in my tiny mind an image of Mister Potato head, with legs and feet You know you want to see that, so go ahead I ll wait view spoiler Well, I could not find one with legs but you get the picture His and Hers hide spoiler Hilary Mantel sure knows how to write her prose is eloquent and sophisticated Stylistically speaking, she is very distinctive Very few writers wield grammar the way she does she uses every means of punctuation at her disposal to achieve real effectual writing At some points her writing is simply beautiful, but there are also some real difficulties associated with it This is a hard novel to read It chronicles the life of Thomas Cromwell, and the narrative is focalised through him However, at times it did become incredibly confusing Mantel uses the third person, and repeatedly uses the pronoun he But, who is the he in question During one long piece of dialogue it became difficult to realise who was speaking Both the Duke of Norfolk and Thomas were having a pretty in depth discussion about politics and so forth, both were referred to as he frequently This may sound unusual, but if you ve read this book you ll know exactly what I m talking about This meant that in order to understand this novel, and perhaps even enjoy it, it demands your full attention This is no light reading The narrative is rich in depth and complexity I had a few problems with some passages, so I read them again and got the gist of things But, I really do think this would put many readers off This requires an attentive and patient person Also, a solid grasp on the history is vital Mantel does not hand you the facts she tells you Cromwell s life story, but the rest is up to you If you can get over these obstacles, as I did, then what develops is a fantastic portrayal of Tudor England, and Thomas Cromwell s life Trust me this book s worth sticking with Cold, cold Cromwell So, if you ve made it this far into my review, you ll want to hear about the positives Cromwell is an incredibly interesting historical figure, and Mantel s portrayal of him is superb She has evoked the essence of a self made man who gained the ear of the King, through nothing but his own personal merits, which eventually lead to his sovereign s complete trust However, Cromwell is also very emotionless He s driven with ambition, to fulfil all that he can with his intellect, but he shuts out the rest of his life in the process He loses a lot of family, but he gets over it very, very quickly What he experiences would have broken most people By portraying such a thing, Mantel demonstrates Cromwell s resolve This gives him the heartlessness to succeed in the backstabbing world of Tudor politics it gives him the nonchalance to betray and to use people as he climbs the social ladder But, what goes around comes around, if you know anything about history, you ll know what fate the wheel has for Cromwell Cromwell s relationship with Wolsey is an apt foreshadowing I m digressing here, my point is that Cromwell isn t a very nice man he isn t heroic or likable, only resourceful and cold He had to be to survive and become than he once was he had to be to gain the ear of the King, and to point him in the direction of Wolf HallThe trouble with England, he thinks, is that it s so poor in gesture We shall have to develop a hand signal for Back off, our prince is fucking this man s daughter He is surprised that the Italians have not done it Though perhaps they have, and he just never caught on Final thoughts This is a great read, but it does require a great deal of focus I love Mantel s style of writing, and having already read the second book, I know the problems are worked out of it a bit But, for this book, my enjoyment was hindered by having to re read certain passages where the writing was at its extremist The wonder of this work resides in its historical detail, its characterisation and its creative way of making the mundane details of life seem marvellous.
Do you ever wonder about why people choose to read the books they do Well, I can tell you, I read Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel because it won the Book Prize For Fiction in 2009 You see, The Children s Book by A.
S Byatt was nominated for the Booker in 2009, but did not win Curious to see what book could beat one of my favorite books of all time, I looked up Wolf Hall And what do you know, it s another piece of historical fiction set in England and written by a woman This could be interesting I was intrigued, so I picked it up from the bookstore, determined to see if it was really better than The Children s Book.
Well, dear readers, I am sorry to say that it was not I had such hopes for this book It is set during the time of King Henry VIII, whom we all know was an interesting character in English history The main character and narrator of the book is Thomas Cromwell, about whom there has been much speculation Other main characters include Anne Boleyn, Thomas More, and Queen Katherine I went into this book expecting the best, but I was sorely let down on every front Wolf Hall was an exercise in disappointment.
First of all, I have to say that the writing was of a fine literary quality I have no doubts that Hilary Mantel has a strong grasp of the English language, which is not something I can say about some authors I ve read Her only stylistic flaw was the tendency to put little artsy cliffhangers at the end of each section I got the feeling that she didn t want to end a section without putting something that sounded either meaningful, artistic, or foreboding While that can be a good technique when used sparingly, it came off feeling very contrived to me, like she was trying a little too hard By the time I got to the middle of the book, which is a good 600 pages long, I was over it.
The main problem with this book was its lack of both character development and plot First, the plot I got to the end of the book not really sure what the point was Quite frankly, I was expecting there to be pages, because I didn t feel like the book had gone anywhere or come to any kind of conclusion yet That is not a feeling I like There was no climax, no conclusive event, nothing that tied together all the disparate happenings throughout the book I felt like I was reading a series of events rather than a novel.
That would have been fine with me, had the characters made up for it I don t need a plot driven book if there is enough character development to make it character driven Sadly, this book fails on all fronts when it comes to characters Our narrator, Thomas Cromwell, is so nebulous that he almost doesn t have a character to develop His defining traits consist of a willingness to please the people he works for, a gift for business and diplomacy, and a tendency to treat his underlings well That s what we start with at the beginning of the book, and that s what we re left with at the end I had trouble believing he had aged at all throughout the course of the novel simply because he changed so little Sadly, all the characters in the book are relatively similar to him, if not in character traits, than in voice Though they are described as being very different, I had trouble distinguishing between characters While their political leanings may have been different, there was hardly a difference between the voices of Thomas More, Anne Boleyn, or any other character Mantel should take note that dialogue without tags or quotation marks which is a device I actually like when used correctly only works if the characters are distinct enough not to need them Sadly, this was not the case in Wolf Hall.
There were a few things I liked about this book Like I said, the writing itself was not bad, which is always a positive thing I enjoyed that Mantel gave a fresh perspective on some very tired historical figures I can t tell you how many saintly depictions of Thomas More I ve read in my day, so it was nice to see him in a different read heartless and heretic burning light Still, this book was mostly a let down It wasn t terrible enough for me to hate it, but rather squarely mediocre in every category In my opinion, Wolf Hall should not have beat The Children s Book for the Booker prize, and I do not recommend it Rating 3No character development, very little plot, mediocre overall Not recommended.
I just started Wolf Hall, and I find the relentless use of he to be extremely irritating In the first several chapters, there are dozens of instances where it is not clear who is speaking Every once in a while, as if recognizing the problem she has created, Mantel uses the phrase he, Cromwell Why not just say Cromwell Unless there is some good reason which I can t imagine, this sort of obfuscation is just lazy writing which disrespects the reader May I re think that, based on a comment by another reader It s not lazy writing It s very purposeful And very distracting later I just read some of the reviews There are actually quite a few readers who found the he business as disconcerting as I did, and who expressed their displeasure in rather strong terms, along with many star ratings However, many others really liked the book, as do many Goodreads readers, so it must not bother them as it does me Another Goodreads reader suggested that the use of he all the time created a closer intimacy with Cromwell Perhaps, but I see it differently If you want to create intimacy, use the first person Then it is clear that everything is seen and felt by the single protagonist, and the reader can share that character s viewpoint, thoughts and feelings What Mantel has done is not to bring us close to Cromwell, but to inject herself, the author, between the reader and the prime character She does this on practically every page and I find it jarring every time it happens.
Before my final negative notes, let me say that Mantel clearly has an exquisite command of the language Even in the few chapters I read, her elegant choice of words often made me reflect and smile She can paint a picture when describing a character or a setting that is truly wonderful And, when she chooses to do so, she writes a vivid scene that has power and emotion.
Such continuity of story, however, is the exception rather than the rule The constant switching of time and place, often without the merest hint of transition, made the reading much difficult than it had to be Just a word here or there would have made a huge difference.
Finally, the breezy style in which much of the book is written is entertaining, as many have noted and I agree, but it had the effect of making me wonder if Mantel was as true to the history as I think a historical fiction should be Of course the dialogue and many of the personal incidents are made up, but does the author, when portraying actual events, present them accurately I think such concern for the truth is an obligation of an author when writing about historical characters and events Mantel left me unsure.
I think I ve had enough of Wolf Hall, and perhaps other Goodreads readers have had enough of my criticism of what is surely a popular book I don t usually write negative opinions, but this book just seemed to drag them out of me I hope I have not offended anyone.
Suppose within each book there is another book, and within every letter on every page another volume constantly unfolding but these volumes take no space on the desk Suppose knowledge could be reduced to a quintessence, held within a picture, a sign, held within a place which is no place Suppose the human skull were to become capacious, spaces opening inside it, humming chambers like beehives Thomas Cromwell by Hans Holbein Cromwell was a great supporter of Holbein and personal gave him many commissions for paintings, but also recommended him to the powerful people he knew.
Thomas Cromwell was first and foremost a thinker The myth that we only use about 10% of our brains has been debunked in recent years, but I do think we can accurately say that for some of us our brain works efficiently I think if we were to sit in a very quiet room with Thomas Cromwell we might actually be able to hear the humming of his mind like the circuitry of a super computer Henry the Eighth I m Enery the Eighth, I am, Enery the Eighth I am, I am I got married to the widow next door,She s been married seven times beforeAnd every one was an EneryShe wouldn t have a Willie nor a SamI m her eighth old man named Enery Enery the Eighth, I am Sorry I can t ever seem to say or write his name without that song popping into my head Let s try this again Henry the Eighth was not supposed to be king The 16th century was supposed to be the return of the Age of Camelot when his older brother, Arthur, claimed his birthright and became king of England It was Arthur that had been tutored and trained to be king Henry would have been destined for the church if not for the fickleness of fate that left his brother dead six months before his sixteenth birthday Henry the Eighth rules like a second son that was always second best He is impetuous, bombastic, corpulent, and prone to fits of fury He is not a stupid man and always surrounded himself with intelligent men, disciplined men, who could provide him with wise counsel He did not always take their advice, but he did always give them a chance to make a case The most iconic image of Henry the Eighth painted by Holbein as a mural in Whitehall Palace It was unfortunately destroyed by fire in 1698, but survives through the numerous copies that were made of it Notice the bulging calves Henry was always very proud of them.
Henry preferred advisers named Thomas.
Thomas WolseyThomas MoreThomas CromwellCromwell worked for Thomas Wolsey and when the cardinal fell out of favor it could have been the end for Cromwell s hopes as well Cromwell is a lot of things, a complicated man, a sometimes hard man, but ultimately he is a survivor It is so interesting that Hilary Mantel decided to paint a sympathetic picture of him than what I d previously thought him to be He understood money and that true power does not reside with the man on the throneThe world is not run from where he thinks Not from his border fortresses, not even from Whitehall The world is run from Antwerp, from Florence, from places he has never imagined from Lisbon, from where the ships with sails of silk drift west and are burned up in the sun Not from castle walls, but from countinghouses, not by the call of the bugle but by the click of abacus, not by the grate and click of the mechanism of the gun but by the scrape of the pen on the page of the promissory note that pays for the gun and the gunsmith and the powder and shotThomas More by Hans Holbein.
I first met Thomas More through his book Utopia in a class in college The Praise of Folly by Erasmus was also required reading for the same class I thought both books were fantastic because to truly understand the writings of these two important writers one must explore the history behind the books So I wanted to love More, but as I learned about him the title of his book became and an inappropriate extension of the man His view of how the real world should work was not the Utopia he persuaded me could exist He was opposed to the Protestant Reformation He, with great fervor, began to hunt down anyone connected to the Reformation and interrogate, torture and burn them He didn t keep his distance from it He was frequently down in the stench and the squalor of the dungeons watching his prisoners being broken on the rack The flames of burning heretics danced in his eyes He may have taken too much pleasure in his work My theory is anyone who wears a hairshirt all the time and scourges themselves for evening entertainment is not someone I want making decisions about my life More may have been brilliant, but those beautiful marbles in his head were scrambled There have been many beautiful actresses to play the enchanting Anne Boleyn, but my favorite is Natalie Dormer from The Tudors simply because she has that saucy smirk that could be used as such a weapon quite capable of bringing down a King or a kingdom to achieve her ambitions.
When the King, in his pursuit of Anne Boleyn, decides that the only way he is going to free himself from the albatross from Aragon, Catherine, is to break with the Roman Catholic Church This puts the King in direct conflict with one of his most trusted advisers the before mentioned Thomas More Sir Thomas cannot break with his beliefs When he is asked to sign an oath supporting the King he refuses He certainly had a martyr complex In fact Cromwell in a last ditch effort to try and save More s life points out his hubris in thinking of himself as a Christ figure It was to no avail I do believe that Cromwell feels an uneasiness about the fates of the powerful men who came before him He is always trying to hedge his bets, loaning money at ridiculous low interests to the aristocrats, soothing the relationship between Anne and her sister Mary Henry s current favorite bed warmer as he waits for Anne to pop open her corset , taking care of embarrassing circumstances for other people, forming alliances with the enemies of his friends, and being kind to Henry s only surviving child Mary with Catherine He is always trying to anticipate the future He worked to soften the blows to his enemies believing that someday they would be potential allies He took in orphans, not just from his family, but even from people unconnected to him He assessed their best aspects and put them with tutors so they would be useful to him in the future He understands people and knows how to manipulate them and encourage them at the same timeBut it is no use to justify yourself It is no good to explain It is weak to be anecdotal It is wise to conceal the past even if there is nothing to conceal A man s power is in the half light, in the half seen movements of his hand and the unguessed at expression of his face It is the absence of facts that frightens people the gap you open, into which they pour their fears, fantasies, desires He is but a man and there is no time when that is evident than when his daughter Grace diesGrace dies in his arms she dies easily, as naturally as she was born He eases her back against the damp sheet a child of impossible perfection, her fingers uncurling like thin white leaves I never knew her, he thinks I never knew I had her It has always seemed impossible to him that some act of his gave her life, some unthinking thing that he and Liz did, on some unmemorable night The sweating sickness took his wife and both his daughters leaving only him and his son Gregory alive Maybe those deaths is why he felt so compelled to fill his house with children It didn t have to be his children He thought all children were salvageable, moldable, if encouraged to work at being better at what they were best at Cromwell grew up the son of a blacksmith His father beat him so severely, in fact the book opens with a scene that showed the impassioned brutality that his father was capable of, that Cromwell leaves to join the army and seek his fortune abroad He taught himself to read He was always working his mind like a muscle making it stronger with every book he read With every moment he spent studying the workings of economics, politics, and psychology he didn t know that was what it was called he was giving himself the means to make better decisions, to offer better advice, to hone his cunning He was truly a self made man who by sheer audacity and brilliance made it to the pinnacles of power When he becomes sick though and is at his most vulnerable the fears of a child creep into his mindOn the stairs he can hear the efficient, deathly clip of his father s steel tipped bootsHilary Mantel, what big eyes you have.
Little is known about the early life of Thomas Cromwell He would be pleased to know that He was much interested in knowing everything about everyone and careful about letting others know anything about him He was a long game thinker Something he does one day may not make sense to those around him until much later when the dominoes fall a new direction Mantel will clothe him, put flesh on his bones, share his innermost thoughts, and show you a man capable of being ruthless, but just as likely to be compassionate Though Henry was particularly fascinated with lopping off heads Cromwell knew that ultimately as you eliminate one enemy you only create If possible it is much smarter to blackmail, confuse, or convince an arch enemy, maybe not to be friends that would be expecting too much, but at least to become a passive challenger There are a lot of Thomas s in this book and at times it can seem confusing, but the rule of thumb is if you are not clear about who is speaking or who is sharing their inner thoughts that would be Thomas Cromwell Winner of the Man Booker Prize in 2009 and highly recommended by this dedicated reader If you wish to see of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit also have a Facebook blogger page at