Always a sucker for a Booker Prize winner, I let Wolf Hall sit on my shelf for a year or more, probably a bit scared by the thickness and theme. I hadn’t read anything very substantial in years and let’s face it, it has a dull cover. Once I got over the indirect language, the multiple names and titles for people, and the slow, relentless style of the plot, I became captivated. Knowing it was the based on true life events during the reign of the infamous Henry VIII (which I am far behind my wife in understanding and remembering) made it even more enthralling – I really didn’t know what was going to happen; an impact on the world which is still felt today. I watched Game of Thrones shortly afterwards and it felt trite and shallow somehow. I could feel my brain being stretched to comprehend the large cast of characters in book and TV series (both being period dramas of a sort), and found I mingled the two briefly in my mind in my temporary confusion.
Because I’d waited a year or so before reading the first, the second book of the trilogy came out just after I’d finished Wolf Hall. It killed me to have to buy the large softcopy instead of the paperback (don’t ask), but I couldn’t wait 6 months for the profiteering to be over and grabbed a copy. It was more of the same – and I say that in a way that you feel about sliding on a soft pair of slippers, or opening a favourite beer. It was delicious to sink back into the writing, so distinctive that it is, and continue on from what was a slow burn first book to something I knew would have a dramatic finish thanks to Kim’s brief history lesson. Somewhere along the way, my admiration for Thomas Cromwell turned to respect and then to dislike. Hilary Mantel had taken a feared and hated King’s advisor and given him a voice, and the books were completely that voice. Everything he did was rational, decent, and out of loyalty to the King. Trouble was, the King was a whimsical prick really.
I hesitate to recommend the books because the language used is sometimes challenging, and there is a cast of thousands. But I have rarely read something so satisfying, which makes me believe I really need to just read straight history books in future because that was a huge source of my pleasure. I found since finishing, I have been a bit down in mood – it really was a bit of a nasty end and Cromwell does not come out of it well. 5 stars.