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Topic: Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

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Subject: Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
Date Posted: 3/22/2010 8:24 PM ET
Member Since: 12/10/2005
Posts: 2,851
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Shelly and I have commented in another thread about how confusing this book is to read. The author often does not state by name who she's talking about. I'm also confused by her sequence of events, which jumps around.

In the part I'm reading now (page 80), Wolsey is briefly summing up the history of England from Caesar to Henry VIII. At page 78, Mantel writes:

His [Edward IV's] troops were baffled and battle-weary, it was the darkest time of one of God's darkest years, and he had just heard the news that should have broken him: his father and his youngest brother had been captured, mocked and slaughtered by the Lancastrian forces.

Perhaps this is a misprint, but I believe it should read, "his father and his younger brother". Because she's talking about Edmund, and not Richard, who was in fact Edward's youngest brother.

Back to page 80: "Katherine [of Aragon] was contracted to be married into England ...; but berfore her family would let her embark from Corunna, they exacted a price in blood and bone. They asked Henry to turn his attention to the chief Plantagenet claimant, the nephew of King Edward and wicked King Richard, whom he had held in the Tower since he was a child of ten."

Do you think she means Edward Plantagenet, son of George, Duke of Clarence? Because that would be Henry VII, not Henry VIII. This Edward was dead before Katherine and Henry married.

And with his death, the Plantagenet line ended. So who the heck is she talking 'bout?

Date Posted: 3/23/2010 8:18 AM ET
Member Since: 6/16/2008
Posts: 772
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Can't answer your questions, but I am so glad I didn't kill myself to keep plugging away at it. If within two pages there are instances like that, my brain would have eventually glazed over and I'd just have seen words on a page, not a story. Reminiscent of an economics textbook.

Date Posted: 3/23/2010 11:01 AM ET
Member Since: 3/23/2008
Posts: 2,493
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Gosh Genie, if you and Shelley both found it confusing maybe I should re-think even bothering with this one.

Date Posted: 3/23/2010 11:38 AM ET
Member Since: 12/22/2008
Posts: 533
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On other sites, I've read this common complaint.  Some are finding the many unclarified "he" pronouns problematic.  If it is such a struggle I may not read it.

Date Posted: 3/23/2010 12:50 PM ET
Member Since: 12/10/2005
Posts: 2,851
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If I have some time while I read it, I'll post some more examples. I remember thinking, huh, early in the reading. But the above time period I'm fairly familiar with.

What I'm beginning to think is, the book's a combination of sloppy research and bad writing. 'Course I'm sometimes too harsh a judge at first, so I'll keep reading for a bit.

Date Posted: 3/23/2010 12:55 PM ET
Member Since: 6/5/2007
Posts: 2,507
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I'm so sad to hear because I was looking forward to it, but I hate confusing books. Not as much as I hate sloppy research and poor writing though. It sounds like it is a trifecta on that front.

Date Posted: 3/23/2010 2:50 PM ET
Member Since: 4/23/2008
Posts: 1,755
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The thing I've figured out is that Mantel always refers to Thomas Cromwell as "he."  Always.  She never states "Cromwell said" or "Cromwell stepped outside" or whatever.  It's always "he."  Always.  My understanding is that when you use a pronoun you are referring back to the last person you just mentioned.  Mantel disregards this entirely. I assume it is somehow part of her writing style.  She'll do something like, "King Henry strode into the room.  He says, 'Good day' and waits for a response."  (I just made that up - it's not actually from the book. I'm just using it for an example.)  One would normally assume that the "he" who said "Good day" is King Henry since that's the person she last mentioned but no, in Mantel's world, "he" is ALWAYS Cromwell.  It kind of drives me crazy. If that's the way she wanted to do it, she could've just always capitalized "he" like she was talking about God or something.  LOL! 

BTW, Genie, I certainly can't answer your questions.  I have a vague knowledge of the Tudors, but nothing remotely extensive.

Also, BTW, Genie, we should probably shut our mouths on this or we'll never be able to trade our copies of Wolf Hall.  LOL! 

Date Posted: 3/25/2010 5:02 PM ET
Member Since: 12/10/2005
Posts: 2,851
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LOL, Shelley. Mine will go to the library if no one here wants it. I'm done.

The book is poorly written and some of the facts are exaggerated or wrong. The exaggeration I can understand if it's the opinion of the character. But one never knows which character she's talking about. You can bet it's a Thomas. LOL! Thomas Cromwell, Thomas Howard, Thomas More, Thomas Wolsey. Maybe that's why she says "he" all the time.

Despite poor writing and questionable research, I was willing to plough through. Until I hit absurdity. Page 116, Cromwell (I think cause she never says.) is worrying about a little flirtation he had with Mary Boleyn. (Nope. That's not the absurdity.) He has heard a rumor about her being pregnant, but apparently nothing comes of it. He's musing about women, such as Queen Katherine, who have hidden miscarriages. She writes:

She [Katherine] took to her rooms for her confinement; after a time, she emerged tight-laced, with a flat belly, and no baby.

It must be a Tudor speciality.

A little later, he [Cromwell] hears that Anne [Boleyn] has taken the wardship of her sister's son, Henry Carey. He wonders if she intends to poison him. Or eat him.

On that note, the book hits the wall. I'm done.

Date Posted: 3/25/2010 6:38 PM ET
Member Since: 6/5/2007
Posts: 2,507
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(Nope. That's not the absurdity.)

Bwahahahahahahhaha, that made me literally laugh out loud. The book is now off my WL.

Date Posted: 3/25/2010 7:48 PM ET
Member Since: 4/23/2008
Posts: 1,755
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Well, I'm still plowing through because I'm so committed at this point, but I've taken to skimming and not caring too much if I totally don't grasp what's going on.  I want to finish it so I can start The Sunne in Splendour for the read along. 

Date Posted: 3/26/2010 9:30 AM ET
Member Since: 8/17/2009
Posts: 1,588
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It's coming off my WL, too.  I was willing to give it a try despite the confusing writing, until I saw more detail about it here.  If "he" ALWAYS references Cromwell, regardless of its proximity in the sentence to other males in the scene, it would drive me batty.  How utterly stupid.  And yet, I would bet you that it's part of why the literary crowd ooh'ed and ahh'ed--it's "original".  Bleh.

Date Posted: 3/26/2010 9:52 AM ET
Member Since: 5/19/2007
Posts: 4,713
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Finally!  A book being discussed in this forum that I now DON'T want to read!  Thank you, Genie...thank you all!!!;)

Date Posted: 3/26/2010 11:02 AM ET
Member Since: 5/3/2008
Posts: 10,465
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I absolutely agree with Vicky! Whew, that was very brave, Genie and Shelley. You could've risked the wet noodle treatment and instead you are getting kudos!!!

Date Posted: 3/26/2010 11:32 AM ET
Member Since: 6/16/2008
Posts: 772
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And yet, I would bet you that it's part of why the literary crowd ooh'ed and ahh'ed--it's "original".  Bleh.

These "literary" books are too cute by far, IMO.They pawn off the mediocre with some stylistic foofoos and furbelows and suddenly it's "stunning" and "thought-provoking."

Date Posted: 3/26/2010 12:13 PM ET
Member Since: 4/23/2008
Posts: 1,755
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That's it, Genie, we've runined our chances to trade WH!  LOL!  Hopefully there are people out there who have this on their wishlist that don't read this forum!  (Why anyone wouldn't read this forum is beyond me, but I'm sure there are people like that out there.)

Is there anyone out there who read WH and liked it?  If so, I'm sure we would all love to hear your thoughts, although at this point you're probably scared to publicly air them.  LOL! 

Date Posted: 3/26/2010 1:02 PM ET
Member Since: 8/17/2009
Posts: 1,588
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Based on the number of folks on the WL, I'd say it's certain some of them don't participate on this board.  And seriously, if anyone liked it enough to overcome the writing style, I'd like to hear about it.  I was always interested because of the new perspective: Cromwell's.  If anyone thought that the substantive value significantly outweighed the writing issue, I'd welcome discussion of it.  I haven't actually removed it from the WL yet; I'm WAY down the list for the PB (I don't want the HC) so I'm content to sit there a while before making a final decision. 

Date Posted: 3/26/2010 1:34 PM ET
Member Since: 12/10/2005
Posts: 2,851
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These "literary" books are too cute by far, IMO.They pawn off the mediocre with some stylistic foofoos and furbelows and suddenly it's "stunning" and "thought-provoking."

Maybe bad research and writing is in vogue. If so, it's time for me to retire. And praise god I'm a dinosaur.

Genie and Shelley. You could've risked the wet noodle treatment

We're not afraid of no stinkin wet noodle ... Um, just don't tell Valli.

if anyone liked it enough to overcome the writing style, I'd like to hear about it

Yep, we welcome all perspectives. Those that don't agree with us get the wet noodle treatment, of course. Right, Valli? That's the rule, right?

Date Posted: 5/2/2010 8:07 PM ET
Member Since: 5/19/2007
Posts: 4,713
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I have spent the afternoon reading reviews and ordering books for the library.  Just thought you would like to know that Hilary Mantel intends to make Wolf Hall the first book in a trilogy.

 

The second book should be titled The Mirror and the Light.  Thought you all might want to update your wishlists.  devil

Date Posted: 5/3/2010 8:39 AM ET
Member Since: 5/31/2009
Posts: 2,953
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I must be the only one in HF who liked Wolf Hall by Hilary Mandel.  The book was long and confusing at times but I find if I read book like this in spurts I can enjoy them more.  I think that some of the errors you point out should be caught by editors.I find many errors in the books I read, most of which I just ignore in favor of the story.  Other books were long and confusing for me, too.  First Man in Rome was long and confusing at times, too.  So were The Eagle and the Raven by Pauline Gedge, and Russka, the epic by Edward Rutherfurd.  In addition, books about historical characters that take another look at who they might of been are fascinating.  If I hadn't already read it I would request it.  And if my TBR list wasn't so tall I would get it to read again to understand what you all dislike about it.  Perhaps it was partly the topic that turned so many of you off.



Last Edited on: 5/3/10 8:50 AM ET - Total times edited: 2
Date Posted: 5/3/2010 3:24 PM ET
Member Since: 12/10/2005
Posts: 2,851
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First Man in Rome was long and confusing at times, too.

Yep. Reading it now. But I have to disagree that the length and newness (to me) of the topic has anything to do with how interesting it is. I find it fascinating even though my focus right now isn't what it usually is. I don't find it confusing, but I can't claim to be retaining all of this either. smiley

With Wolf Hall, I became impatient with the inaccuracies and inanities. Cromwell flirting with Mary (I think) Boleyn just doesn't ring true.

Date Posted: 5/4/2010 4:26 PM ET
Member Since: 6/16/2008
Posts: 772
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Yeah, First Man in Rome is confusing if you aren't all that familiar with Republican Roman politics. Even with a basic grounding, it can still be a bit muddy at times. By the later books, you'll know the term limits for praetors and just how tribunes of the plebs are elected and the bureaucratic chart will be a breeze. laugh