Goodreads synopsis: Tudor England. Henry VIII is on the throne, but has no heir. Cardinal Wolsey is charged with securing his divorce. Into this atmosphere of distrust comes Thomas Cromwell – a man as ruthlessly 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.
I don’t actually own a copy of this book (I borrowed my mums) so I sourced the above photos from Goodreads to show different covers of the book. Onto the review. I think the first thing I should mention is the writing style. It is quite unique and does take a little time getting used to it. Some will probably become irritated with it. Although I personally didn’t love it, I didn’t hate it either and you can’t deny that Mantel is a great writer. The main example of this is that Mantel uses he to refer to Thomas Cromwell (the main character), without always clarifying that it is him she is talking about. This can be especially confusing when there are multiple men in a scene. However I think if you just go with it you will get used to it. You basically need to remember that everything is from Cromwell’s perspective. It just may take some time to get into the book, especially as it is quite long. It is safe to say that this is quite a long and dense read but in my opinion it is with the effort. The depth of detail and complexity is what makes this book great. As someone who loves history this is a very interesting read but that may not be the case for everyone.
There is alot of information and history woven into this story which as I mentioned does make this quite dense read. It can also be quite tricky because there are alot of characters and alot of them have the same name. This makes it a little hard to keep track of all the characters so you will have to pay very close attention what is going on and the interactions between characters. There is also a character list within the book which is useful. I had to go back to it to double check things numerous times throughout my reading of this book. However if you have knowledge of this time period then reading this may be a little easier as you know who is who. You don’t need prior knowledge but it may be useful to fully understand everything, if that makes sense. The characters are fantastically written. It is so interesting to see these historical figures coming to life within the pages and there are some great character studies in this book. I find Anne Boleyn a fascinating historical figure as she has been painted in different ways but we will never really know what motivated her and her thought process. Thomas Cromwell is another fascinating historical figure and Mantel’s portrayal of him is fantastic. He is such a complex character and with this portrayal we can see many possible sides to him. Basically Mantel writes characters very well.
Overall this is a great first book in a fantastic trilogy, although the third book (The Mirror and the Light) is yet to be released. I am very excited for its release. It is not an easy read in many ways but it is well worth the effort. If you love historical fiction and/or are interested in this time period, then I highly recommend reading this. However I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone – if you have no interest in the Tudor period then you may find this boring. Before I finish I also want to quickly mention the BBC adaptation of the books. It was first released in 2015 and stars Mark Rylance, Damien Lewis and Claire Foy. It is a wonderful adaptation and I highly recommend it as well- Rylance is phenomenal as Cromwell. Have you read this book? What did you think? I hope you are all having a wonderful day and I will see you next time.