Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Wolf Hall

This will no doubt be the shortest entry yet for our book club. We had three weeks to read one of the longest books yet and only a couple of us were able to finish it. Everyone else had started and were in varying stages of finishing. Carolyn and I agreed that Mantel had set up the story in the first half and the second half was easily more readable. We found it difficult to sort out the birth names from the titles that she used interchangeably, like sometimes she used Charles Brandon and other times, Suffolk as he was the Duke of Suffolk.

It's the first time we've read historical fiction based on true characters. Life was so hard - if one didn't die of an URI in the winter, the plague in the summer, then you might be put to death by King Henry VIII - or starve.

Oddly enough, because Carolyn and Kareen have a firm grasp on the history of that time period, we still had a good discussion. Kathy and Carolyn were surprised to see Mantel portray Thomas More as a narrow-minded judgmental man, having formed their opinions on A Man for All Seasons. We ended up breaking and surviving the rules about not talking politics or religion, since that was the subject of this book and many of the elements have parallels today. Cromwell observed, "The 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 never imagine." Globalism even then!

We all were surprised by Mantel's characterization of Anne Boleyn and her sister, but it made us aware of how manipulative and shrewd women needed to be in order to make their place, since they had no ownership of anything. When Anne was finally pregnant, she said, "You see, I was always desired. But now I'm valued. And that is a different thing, I find."

It didn't help the discussion that I had left my Kindle at home with all my careful notes, but it wasn't a disaster since those unable to finish, still plan to. I, who am not a fan of historical fiction, thought it was a wonderful book. It's the first time since 2002 that a Booker award was also a best seller in Britain.

I distributed copies of our working reading list for 2012. We looked through it, crossed off a couple titles and added a couple. Kathy asked if we would be willing to read recent New York Times best selling fiction, since that would mean we probably wouldn't have access to library copies. We agreed so she's going to submit some titles for our consideration. Next month we'll go home with all the nominations and vote in October. I do think this is going to be a fabulous list. None of knew how Wolf Hall got on the list, nor did we know anything about it. That's not going to happen again.