Wolf Hall Read-along: Parts 1 and 2

Saturday, December 03, 2011

So, I started reading Wolf Hall. It was intense. {spoilers may follow}

I went into this book knowing that it was about Henry VIII and Thomas Cromwell. My knowledge of Henry VIII has come almost entirely from Phillippa Gregory thus far, and either she skipped over Thomas Cromwell or I just didn't pay as much attention to those parts, because I knew absolutely nothing about him. This results in my not knowing what exactly is going on. I know how everything goes down with the King, Katherine, and Anne Boleyn, but the machinations of the government surrounding Henry's whims and upheavals are foreign to me. This makes the book more interesting for me, I think -- I have no idea what will happen as far as Thomas Cromwell is concerned.

This is also a source of confusion for me, in that the story is happening from Thomas Cromwell's eyes. It is actually a very interesting method of story-telling that is at times confusing. The book is in third person, but it is limited absolutely to what Thomas can see and hear. And Cromwell is hardly ever identified -- he is merely "he." This can at times be confusing, especially because it seems that a third of the characters have the first name Thomas, or have multiple names (you know, Thomas Wolsey = the Cardinal = the Cardinal of York and so on). At times I feel like the story assumes a knowledge of what goes on beyond Cromwell's eyes, which can be confusing for me. For example, evidently Cromwell is hated by everyone. I understand that part of this is because the Cardinal is in trouble with the King and Cromwell works for the Cardinal, but I'm not sure exactly where the Cardinal stands and why Cromwell is hated as an extension of the Cardinal. Most of the story so far has dealt with Cromwell's personal life and the broad, general occurrences surrounding King Henry's quandary -- I haven't seen much linking of the two yet.

Other than my vague sense of confusion, however, I am enjoying the story. Despite the occasional confusion with dialogue (the "he" issue), the writing is beautiful and evocative. I feel like the perspective is very fresh as well -- it has a different tone than I was expecting. I like the feel of the person Cromwell is -- inside his mind is a sad place to be, but an interesting one.

I am excited to see where the story leads from here, and am hoping for some more clarity. I might have to do some research to understand it if I continue to feel confused!


  1. I've never heard of this story! It's sounds so interesting! I've got Alison Weir's The Six Wives of Henry Viii and The Life of Elizabeth I tucked away somehere. Not sure if that helps on the history, but I'm hoping. :-)

  2. At least you read Philippa Gregory's work so you were somewhat aware of the drama that is the Tudors. I only know about it because of the movie from her book The Other Boleyn Girl. I have Scarlett Johannson and Natalie Portman super-imposed over the characters as I read this book! :) Such a sad story and my heart just continues to break for Thomas. Oh, I couldn't believe the loss that he's suffered in his life just up to that point! So nervous to read what happens in Parts 2 & 3!

  3. Lorren...I enjoyed your review. I'm enjoying the book and am hopeful that the "sum" of the book will be worth some of the "difficulties." Being a slow reader, it's keeping me busy.

  4. @Jillian -- And I have Allison Weir's Wars of the Roses sitting on my shelf too! I have had that book for probably ten years. I think this would be one you would enjoy!

    @Natalie - Ha I totally have Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johnassen in my mind too. I am excited to see what happens next, and hoping it isn't too complicated for my little finals-ridden brain to manage.

    @What Remains Now - It is definitely slow going for me, too, but I think it will be a great read in the end!


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