On the shelf this week is Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, currently being read by Commercial Manager, Conor Anderson! Read on to find out more about What We’re Reading…
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. 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.
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, suffering and courage.
What did Conor think?
‘I like this book a lot but its not exactly light reading – I’ve returned to it in an attempt to close off the trilogy, though as I enter the final straight I am starting to experience a creeping dread: I don’t have it in me to leap straight into Bring up the Bodies, and I am not sure when I will. What if it takes me a year to muster my courage to read it? And by then I’ll have forgotten who the 50+ characters are. Or which of Henry VIII’s Wives is still alive. Am I going to have to re-read Wolf Hall for a third time? Can I break this cycle? Good book, though.’
If you liked this, keep an eye out for…
England, 1459: Cecily Neville, Duchess of York, is embroiled in a plot to topple the weak-minded King Henry VI from the throne. But when the Yorkists are defeated at the Battle of Ludford Bridge, Cecily’s family flee and abandon her to face a marauding Lancastrian army on her own.
Cecily can only watch as her lands are torn apart and divided up by the ruthless Queen Marguerite. From the towers of her prison in Tonbridge Castle, the Duchess begins to spin a web of deceit – one that will eventually lead to treason, to the fall of King Henry VI, and to her eldest son being crowned King Edward IV.
This is a story of heartbreak, ambition and treachery, of one woman’s quest to claim the throne during the violence and tragedy of the Wars of the Roses.