book blog · Book Review

Book Review | Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel… a unique reading experiance

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Released: April 2009
Publisher: Fourth Estate
Genre: Historical Fiction
Length: 559 Pages
My Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Hi Readers

Wolf Hall has been on my raider for a while now. How could it not be? Mantel has garnered so much success from her Thomas Cromwell series, having won two Manbookers and shortlisted twice for the Women’s Prize. You can’t really get better praise than that.

She’s the name that’s on everyones lips at the moment and seeing the excitement for the third and final installment made me want to join in. So I finally picked up a copy and gave it a try myself.

Tudor England. Henry VIII is on the throne and he was a divorce so he can marry Anne Boleyn. This piece of well known history is told from the eyes of the formidable Thomas Cromwell, the son of a blacksmith who rose into the being the most influential member of Henry VIII’s court.

This is a very accurately fictionalised account of the divorce of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon, told from the eyes of Thomas Cromwell. It feels as factual as any non-fiction but by it being fiction Hilary is able to give the reader the feeling of being in the moment rather than looking back.

It’s like most books. Unless you’re really interested in the subject, in this case the Tudors, then I’m not sure you’d enjoy this book. I also think some prior knowlege of the Tudors is necessary to actually understand the story. Or at least have google at hand because it does get confusing.

There are a lot of characters. So much so that there’s a ‘cast list’ at the beginning of the book in case you get lost, which is pretty much inevitable. A big contributer to this is that everyone pretty much had the same names. There’s at least five different Thomas’s, Henry’s, Anne’s, Mary’s and Richard’s.

Confusion aside Thomas Cromwell is person we spend the most time with. Hilary describes the perspective of this book as being a camera on Cromwell’s shoulder and it definitely feels that way, like we’re viewing the action first hand through him.

I’ve read a bit about this time period, most recently Alison Weir’s biography The Six Wives of Henry VIII and the picture that I got of him from that is totally different to how Mantel chooses to portray him. In history he’s been viewed as a villain but Mantel’s choice of beginning this book with Cromwell being beaten by his father sets the motions for making him a more sympathetic and heroic figure.

I also really enjoyed Anne Boleyn. I’ve always found her so interesting and any time she popped up on the page in this she really stole the scene.

Another source of confusion at times was Mantel’s choice of structure. I actually went back and forth between the audiobook and the physical book for this one because of how lost I sometimes became but I was eventually able to figure it out and get sweeped up in the words.

The confusion came from it not always being clear to me who was being talked about, and the lack of distinction between what was dialect and what wasn’t definitely made it a hard read. I found myself having to backtrack a couple of times to try and grasp what was happening to who.

Saying that though the writing style, once I got used to it, was astounding. In a story full of betrayal and lies Mantel was able to add such touching and humane moments that really made me feel for the characters.

Favourite Quote

“He kissed the infants fluffy skull and said, I shall be as tender to you as my father was not to me. For what is the point of breeding children if each generation does not improve on what went before. “

– Hilary Mantel, Wolf Hall

Would I Read Again? Yes
Would I Recommend? If you’re interested in the Tudor period, yes.

Thanks for Reading,
Jess X

book blog · Book Review

Book Review: The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Alison Weir…you couldn’t make it up

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Released: 1992
Publisher: Grove Press
Genre: Non-Fiction
Length: 575 Pages
Source: Library
My Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Hi Readers

I was taught about Henry VIII and his six wives in year five of Primary School (I would’ve been 9). The most I was taught was Henry’s diet (portion control is important kids), Anne Boleyns extra finger (not even true) and, of course, the rhyme to help you remember the six women without having to actually learn anything about them.

Seeing as my year 5 teacher failed me in that sense I decided to take it upon myself to learn more about these women and why they’d been thrown aside by the man who had sworn death do us part.

Everyone knows the famous rhyme of these six women, but there’s always more to the story. This biography tells the story of one of the most informous Tudor Kings and his Six Queens.

This typically isn’t the type of book I would pick up. Last year I read 90 books and just three of those were non-fiction books read for non-fiction November. I’ve always liked historical fiction but I do find when I’m reading it I’m constantly googling ‘did this really happen’ so I should have guessed that ‘historical non-fiction’ would be right up my alley.

This book reads just as exciting as any fictionalised novel. It’s full of drama, suspense and intrigue that will make it unputdownable. It’s a 500+ page book and I read it in 3 days which in itself shows how much I enjoyed it.

When it comes to biographies though I do sometimes get the feeling it’s hard for the author to be completely unbiased and I did get a sense of that in this book. I also wasn’t a fan of her always commenting on the Queen’s ‘degrading looks’. For example, Katherine of Aragon was old and haggered at 28 but Henry was in him ‘prime’ at 35?

Apart from that, I loved this book. You can tell how much Alison researched this period of history and really brought it to life in all it’s dangerous and tyrannic glory. We get so much detail and theirs so much I learnt about the royal courts with all the corruption, lies and betrayals that brought about these women’s downfalls.

Most of all, I loved learning about each of the wives. You get a great sense of their lives, personalities and most of all their ambitions. It’s such a complex story but Weir weaves it all together to create the best non-fiction book I’ve ever read.

Would I Read Again? Yes.
Would I Recommend? Definitely!

Thanks For Reading,
Jess X