I promised, months ago, to do 100 Cultural Lifechangers as a series of Lj posts. I haven’t forgotten, I just don’t feel up to making big lj posts a lot of the time. But, I have just finished Bring up the Bodies
, want to rave about it, and thought; what better way to finally start this thing.
I have been making lists of the things – books, movies, art, etc – I want to talk about in this series, and one of the first titles I wrote down in the list of books was Wolf Hall
by Hilary Mantel. I was slightly doubtful about including it because I only read it last fall so I worried that maybe I should give it some time to see if it stayed with me. But then the sequel, Bring up the Bodies,
came out in May. I reread Wolf Hall
and immediately followed it up with the new book, which I finished earlier today. I feel confident that I am not in any way overstating things to claim this as one of the most important books I have read.
I do feel like, since this is basically a post raving about these books, that I should put up a disclaimer, which goes for all future posts. These things are personal. You may not like this book, and I would understand if you dislike it, because while it’s very very good, it may not be your thing. Every one of these 100 Things will by default be a recommendation, and I hope that if you read it (which, good on you if you wade through my word vomit) you want to give the thing a try. But sometimes, probably more often than I realize, the reason I love a story is because of personal taste or the place it has in my life at the time I read it.
Also, a note on spoilers; I don’t think I can really…spoil these books? I mean, plot-wise, these things happened 500 years ago, I don’t think that it still counts as a spoiler if I tell you what happened to Anne Boleyn :P
For those of you who don’t know the books, a short introduction to the plot: Wolf Hall
is set in England in the early sixteenth century: the Tudor era, when Henry VIII was king. The main character in Thomas Cromwell, an infamous historical figure who becomes a layered and surprisingly likeable character throughout these books. We follow him as he rises above his humble origins as a blacksmith’s son and becomes the King’s right-hand man. Henry VIII is in this period trying to annul his marriage to Katherine of Aragon in order to marry Anne Boleyn, and Cromwell helps him to achieve that. In the sequel, Bring up the Bodies
, Henry turns against Anne and she famously is convicted of treason, and is beheaded at the Tower. Again, Thomas Cromwell is the man responsible. ( cut for lengthy discussion of why it's a great bookCollapse )
But why is it a lifechanger, and why is it one of ten books I'm discussing? I can tell this part is going to be a problem for the other 99 things too because damn, that's hard to articulate. Basically, I think what it comes down to is that it hits on the right combination of quality, personal interest, and emotion for me. I wouldn't be as into it if I didn't have all those feelings about the period and the people (ie Anne) already, I wouldn't rave about it as much if the writing wasn't so compelling, and I definitely wouldn't be writing this post of overflowing words if I hadn't had such an emotional reaction to it. On several occasions throughout reading the books I got overwhelmed with emotions and did this. I don't get that enough, that feeling of being completely involved in a story so that you can't put it down and you just have to force yourself to stop and breathe. And this is the first one in a long long time that combines that lovely feeling with extremely good writing. These novels have restored my faith in historical fiction and have assured me that I can truly love books that aren't fantasy or YA.
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