Monday, 30 March 2020

Review: Hilary Mantel, Wolf Hall (2010)

I wrote this review of Wolf Hall just now for my Goodreads account.  Since it's easy to cross-paste the html , that's precisely what I'm going to do.


I've marked this book as "finished" although "abandoned" would be more accurate. I got to p.357 and then just flipped through the last half with growing irritation.

I have difficulty seeing how this book got such rave reviews when it came out. The writing is instantly forgettable and the characters little more than clichés (A religious bigot? check. A scheming harpy? check. A tortured but good man? check.) Cardinal Wolsey is at least mildly interesting, but as he's dead in the first half of the book His Eminence really can't redeem it. Don't believe me? Give me a quotable line from it. Neither can I.

More troublingly though, the book isn't particularly historically accurate despite which some people will no doubt think it is. I find this alarming, having met people who wanted religious liberties restricted based on a belief that The Da Vinci Code was factual (I also once worked with a man who thought that Game of Thrones was historical fiction, but that's another story). The dangers of all of this become clear when one considers that the Thomas Cromwell trilogy seems in large part to be Hilary Mantel giving her personal prejudices creative expression.

Despite the foregoing, I'm grateful for one thing. I'm typing this review during the Covid-19 pandemic. The 600+ pages of Wolf Hall will stand me in good stead if the toilet paper runs out.

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