Page count: 672 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Date begun: May 23rd, 2011
Date finished: May 30th, 2011
Now regular readers of this blog might be forgiven for thinking that I pretty much exclusively read paranormal fantasy, or romance, or paranormal romance, with the occasional foray into young adult fiction. They would not be wrong. As a teacher, I find it extremely satisfying and diverting to read various types of genre fiction as my main form of relaxation. With teaching, correction work and lesson planning going through my mind, I find I don't have the patience with heavy intellectual tomes a lot of the time.
There are exceptions to the rule, however. I don't think anyone would classify Wolf Hall as light weight (it's a huge brick of a book, for one thing). It won the Man Booker Prize in 2009, and it covers a fairly complex time in history. As a medieaval historian, I love me some Tudors. I wrote essays on them at university. I find Henry VIII and his offspring fascinating. This book chronicles the fall of Henry's advisor, Cardinal Wolsey, and the subsequent rise to power of Thomas Cromwell, the son of a brutal Putney blacksmith who became the king's first minister, and eventually, the first Earl of Essex.
A brilliant statesman, Cromwell steps in when his mentor, Wolsey, loses favour with the king, and helps secure Henry's divorce to Catherine of Aragon and his marriage to Anne Boleyn. He loses his own wife and daughters to the sweating sickness, but keeps rising in the ranks of the court, until he is indispensable to the king and the new queen.
The book is not actually a very difficult read, considering the weighty subject matter. It starts in the late 1520s, when Wolsey is still Henry's chief advisor, and covers the next ten years or so of the Tudor king's reign. Every so often, it flashes back to Cromwell's childhood or early life, and this can get a bit distracting. The book also goes into a little bit too much detail about Cromwell's inner musings on occasion, and drags in parts, but is for the most part, a very entertaining read and gave me a lot more insight into the life of a very important and often overlooked man in English history.