Sunday, January 31, 2010

Book Review: Wolf Hall

I just finished reading Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall, which has made me want to revise all my Julian novels to make them big fat novels filled with flashbacks and historical/political texture.  Why didn't I do this?  I kept fuming, as I read.  Why didn't I do that?  Writer's envy: a certain sign that you are reading a fine writer.  

(A mediocre writer you keep thinking, well, okay, but it would work better if she did this; a bad writer, you do not think at all.  You just gag and fling it against the wall.) 

I think I would have enjoyed Wolf Hall even more if I had known even the smallest bit about the period -- 1530s England, which is way outside my realm (my era, the era I wrote my dissertation on, was 1st century Rome and 7th century Greece -- comp lit, remember -- the nature of translation, fap fap fap -- but I've been teaching Chaucer, along with the Victorians, long enough to have picked up a bit about 14th and 19th century England, and who doesn't know a bit about early 2oth century England; but the rest?  It's a dark and undiscovered country, as far as I'm concerned.  I had to keep asking Herr Doctor Delagar questions.  "This Jane Seymour," I would say, "is she going to be important?"

(No, I'm not kidding.  Somehow I made it to my advanced age without knowing all the names of the six wives of Henry VIII.)

I also didn't know Thomas Cromwell was related to Oliver Cromwell, though now that I do know it it's way cool.

Anyway, a deeply satisfying book.  Have fun.

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