Wolf Hall was at the top of the To Read and be Savored pile. A Christmas gift from a fellow book nerd friend, Wolf Hall has sat on my shelf since December of 2009. The novel is about Thomas Cromwell, born to an abusive blacksmith, Cromwell rises to power first as adviser to Cardinal Wolsey and then as an agent of Henry the VIII. As one who loves literary historical fiction (especially related to this time period) I knew I would love this novel. I finally decided that Wolf Hall was ready to be read this year. I've on my nightstand since January and it wasn't until November that I decided it was time for Wolf Hall.
I eagerly began reading and discovered....
I didn't like the book AT ALL.
Mantel switches point-of-view a great deal, meaning I found myself rereading passages to decipher who "he" could be and Mantel tends to switch between internal and external dialogue without making it clear to the reader. Let me clarify, it is beautifully written, but lacks the narrative ease of most historical fiction. I would say that most historical fiction is "plot-driven" or focused on describing historical "character"; Wolf Hall has an interesting plot and intriguing characters, but truly the writing is what shines.
Then I realized that my approach to Wolf Hall was completely wrong. I was reading it on lunch breaks or on the floor while Atticus played or when I was sleepy at night. Scratch that.... I followed a simple formula for The Reading of Wolf Hall and it worked, I loved the novel.
I present to you, instructions for reading Wolf Hall:
- Ideal conditions include the evening hours before you get sleepy. Grey and cold weather are a plus.
- Step one: tuck the kids in bed. Send the husband off to do something arty.
- Step two: Brew a large pot of tea. I would highly recommend Harney & Sons Fine Tea Tower of London blend.
- Step three: Sit in a comfy, but-not-too-comfy chair.
- Step four: Open book
- Step five: crawl into book
- Step six: live inside sixteenth century England for a solid two hours or more
- Step seven: reemerge, shake your head, and try to reacquaint yourself with new-fangled modernity