Genre: Historical Fiction (literary fiction)
Source: Borrowed audio from Arleigh at Historical-Fiction.com
“England, the 1520s. Henry VIII is on the throne, but has no heir. Cardinal Wolsey is his chief advisor, charged with securing the divorce the Pope refuses to grant. Into this atmosphere of distrust and need comes Thomas Cromwell, first as Wolsey's clerk, and later his successor. Cromwell is a wholly original man: the son of a brutal blacksmith, a political genius, a briber, a charmer, a bully, a man with a delicate and deadly expertise in manipulating people and events.Alright, right off I’m going to tell you that I didn't really like this book like most others that I talk to, and there are quite a few reasons why, which I will elaborate on in a few lines. I have actually attempted to read this book twice. I had received this book for review back in 2009 and could not get myself past about page 30. Every time that I picked it up to read it I would find myself falling asleep. At first I thought it was because I was just tired at that time, but I would still have similar problems when I read it the second time. So I stopped reading it and gave it away to a fellow blogger.
Ruthless in pursuit of his own interests, he is as ambitious in his wider politics as he is for himself. His reforming agenda is carried out in the grip of a self-interested parliament and a king who fluctuates between romantic passions and murderous rages.
From one of our finest living writers, Wolf Hall is that very rare thing: a truly great English novel, one that explores the intersection of individual psychology and wider politics. With a vast array of characters, and richly overflowing with incident, it peels back history to show us Tudor England as a half-made society, moulding itself with great passion and suffering and courage.”
Time elapsed – a year and a half passed – and I read so many awesome raving reviews of the book I thought maybe I had missed something. I decided I would think about trying it again on audiobook this time (a great narrator can really make a difference). Arleigh at Historical-Fiction.com offered to let me borrow her audio copy and I took her up on the opportunity. The second time around was better and I will give all of the credit to the narrator and audio production because I still didn’t love the story.
I had a difficult time staying interested in this novel because it never felt like anything was happening. I have been told that this is a hallmark of literary fiction – which focuses more on style and characters – and if that is the case, I guess literary fiction is not for me. I certainly like to have depth of characters and well written prose, but I want to know that over the 600-ish pages there are plot points and excitement and in general, things that happen. I learned a lot about the character of Thomas Cromwell, who was relatively new to me and often serves more as a periphery character in other’s stories. He was also portrayed as more of a sympathetic character as opposed to the mostly negative depictions of him in other works of literature. I didn’t like the point of view – everything was “he”, “he”, “he” – and at several points I totally lost track as to who was being described. I also felt that the ending was very abrupt – I was waiting for the story to wrap up, but apparently that wasn’t meant to be.
Also, my biggest question, what the heck is up with the title? They never went to Wolf Hall, nothing happened at Wolf Hall, nothing critical related to Wolf Hall happened, and the only connection to it (Jane Seymour) was a minor character. If someone could explain this to me I would be very grateful.
Now, the audio production on the other hand, was quite good. The narrator did a fabulous job of portraying different characters, accents, female characters, etc. He even had to do a little singing at one point. There were some very minor sound effects used in the production – the one that stands out most in my mind was the use of a lute-type instrument during the singing portion. It certainly added to the experience. I can safely say that this book would have remained a DNF if I had not chosen to listen to it on audio. The narrator was the saving grace for me.
If you would like to preview the story before reading it (and I recommend that you do), why not try out this excerpt of the book?
Browse Inside this book
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You can also listen to an excerpt from the audio by following this link to Macmillan Audio website.
You can check out another review of this book (a positive review) from Arleigh over at Historical-Fiction.com.
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