Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Wolf Hall

Hilary Mantel's newest novel blends fact and fiction to tell the story of Henry the VIII's challenge to the church's power, when he was determined to make Anne Boleyn his queen. It is told from the eyes of Thomas Cromwell who rose from the gutter to become Henry's right hand man, taking the place of Cardinal Wolsey from whom he learned the tricks of his trade.
Cromwell changed the course of history by backing Henry's quest for Anne Boleyn and Henry's desire for absolute authority (which all kings and queens since, including Queen Elizabeth II subscribe to. He was a covert Protestant who protected other militant Protestants from Thomas More.
His main goal was to help the common people which he thought could be achieved by destroying the Catholic clergy whom he despised and he wanted more limits on the power of the aristocracy, who despised him. He was also an administrative genius who transformed England from a fiefdom to a nation-state.
Mantel is able to bring all of these themes together by making us privy to Cromwell's every thought and calculation. Wolf Hall is the seat of the Seymour family clan where the goings-on symbolizes what Cromwell despised about the Catholic church.

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