Mantel delves into the scantily-examined life of Henry Tudor…no. That is sarcasm. This is yet another Tudor book, except that it has way less to do with the Tudors and way more to do with Thomas Cromwell, who you may remember from the periphery of various other Tudoriana. Cromwell is the son of a blacksmith who becomes indespensible to Cardinal Wolsey and then indespensible to Henry VIII and then indespensible to Anne (she of the very little neck).
And my only other real Tudor fic has been the Other Boleyn Virgin Girl Queen Inheritance mishmash, and I think we can all agree that Philippa Gregory is a crap writer (for all that her books are so deliciously salacious). So when it comes down to characters like Cardinal Wolsey, I’m going to go ahead and ignore Her Gregoryness, who paints him as a flat, hungry villain, in favor of Mantel, whose Wolsley is corporeal and fabulous and emminently likable.
To further widen the Gregory-Mantel gap, I did not spend this book rolling my eyes. Not for nothing did Wolf Hall win the Man Booker (although apparently for nothing was it named ‘Wolf Hall’ [ok yes, I’m sure the author had her reasons but I am mad lazy and will not tease them out]). Reading the dialogue is like listening in on the conversations of quietly clever people. Not, like, the BIG JOKE *pause for laughter* guy, but like those people who take it as a matter of course that they are amusing, and don’t let that slow them down.
A lone beef, though: Mantel uses ‘he’ almost constantly to refer to Cromwell, even when he isn’t the most obvious antecedent, and so sometimes (oftentimes) I had to go back to figure out who she was talking about. It didn’t make me stabby, but it made me think about being stabby.
I will not sum up the plot for you. You know what goes down. But know too that even if you don’t give a flying damn re: Los Tudors, this will engage you.