Friday 8 November 2013

Wolf Hall, or How My Love of all Things Tudor Will Never Die

I thought about reserving Wolf Hall at the library a year or two ago when everybody was talking about it, but I had so much to read (nothing changes, clearly) at the time that I thought I might as well just leave it until the hype had died down, as I would've been 35th on the list anyway, and the day the hype died down was last week. I was browsing in the library when, behold! Wolf Hall, sitting on the shelf casually minding its own business. 

There's a bit of a disclaimer on this post, which reads thus:
I grew up approximately a half hour walk from Hampton Court Palace. Age 6 I begged my grandparents to take me round the palace by myself. They thought I would never walk round the whole thing, but I did. Because I'm cool. We used to go in the gardens and the maze with my mum and siblings every single summer holiday and most Easters until they started charging silly amounts to get in. When I was young, the gardens were free and the maze was about 50p. It was awesome. We also used to get the boat there all the time. As well as all this we went on school trips to various parts (just the kitchens in Infant School, the kitchens and great hall in year 3, the whole palace in yr 5 or 6, the whole palace again in years 8, 9 and 10), so while in some ways I'm all Tudored out, in other ways I have a deep and abiding love of that period of history which will probably never die. My mind still boggles at all the chimneys. 

File:Hampton Court Palace 20120224.JPG

So yes, basically what I'm saying is that when I heard that Wolf Hall was about that period of history which I've recently been revelling in reading Philippa Gregory's various books, but actually about Thomas Cromwell and Cardinal Wolsey (the man who originally build Hampton Court) as well as being about the whole thing where Henry VIII was a massive egotist and created the Church of England so he could marry some random woman whom he decided, three years after having finally married her, he didn't actually like enough to keep alive anyway, and obviously for all the above stated reasons, I had to read it. And it was goooooood. The book is massive, but I read it in three days which is entirely unheard of for post baby me. I am very proud of myself. 

There's no point in comparing this with The Other Boleyn Girl et al, but on the whole I did feel a lot less like Hilary Mantel was just making up what she thought could possibly have happened, at some point, somewhere, and more like she was basing her writing around things which a few people agree have actually happened. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy Philippa Gregory's books very much, and of course it's great fun to imagine all the things which could have happened as well as the things that did, but reading Wolf Hall I felt a lot more submerged in history than I ever have reading Gregory. 

So now that's over, pretty much what I'm saying is that I really enjoyed Wolf Hall. It has a lot of characters, but they are pretty much all well developed (or well developed enough to suit their purposes) and Mantel did a great job of making everybody very human. There weren't a lot of people I hated in this, which I liked because there was too much else to keep track of to allow time for hating people. It is pretty well written and very pacy and despite its massive size it was a very quick read for me. 

Sticking with my whole 'this isn't a review' thing, all I will say is that if you have anything like my love for the Tudors, you should probably read this :-) 


  1. I don't have nearly the same lengthy history with the tudors (what with being in Australia and all) but I loved it when I read it last year. I bought Bringing Up The Bodies a couple of months ago and will hopefully get around to it soon. It's supposed to be as good, but a little shorter, than Wolf Hall.

  2. My mum read this last year and loved it... my stepdad tried it and didn't get beyond page 100... a woman at the shop has been going on at me to read it FOR EVER... Hmmmm. I think the evidence is now pointing towards the "just read it already, Ellie!" side. A good one to buy (and read) when the shop is no more, perhaps? Gawd Bex, I can't wait - I'll actually have whole weeks to actually read some of these amazing books again! *squees* If we see it in a charity shop or something in Leeds, make me buy it, okay? :)

  3. I do bloody love the Tudors (I did my A-level history course on them, cause that's how much I love them- I could have even done American history instead and didn't and hopefully we all know how much I love America! [it's a lot]) BUT I also used to go to Hampton Court gardens (sometimes the maze, but it cost money and that was a no-no!) all the time and it was BORING and I HATED IT and RARGH. Basically. But maybe we crossed each others paths at some point! Exciting!

    The point is (is there a point? I've done a good job of not getting to it if there is!) I own Wolf Hall because I saw it in a charity shop days after Hillary Mantel won her second Booker Prize and was like 'yeah, ok then.' Of course I've yet to read it, but you've made me way more excited to :)

  4. I feel weird writing this when I've seen you (for realsies!) only a few hours ago, but I'm too tired to do anything but flick through the 'Favourites' section of my Bloglovin' so here we are! *waves*

    I've ALWAYS wanted to go to Hampton Court, but it's kind of difficult to get to if you're coming from a distance. I do feel the lack though, I assure you.

    I've always been heavily into the Tudors, but I kind of Tudored myself out the year before last with all the historical fiction, which is probably why I haven't bought this yet. I've recently been getting back into it though, so I'll pick this up next time I see it.

    It looks very intimidating and scary though...

  5. It was such an immersive read - and Bring Up the Bodies was wonderful too. I'm hanging out for the the final book in the trilogy.
    I envy you your time wandering through Hampden Court.