Wednesday, May 12, 2010

2nd Wednesday -- Wolf Hall Wednesday Read Along



Welcome to the second weekly discussion post as we continue grinding our way through Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. I'm slightly behind schedule reading -- I planned on having 200 pages read by today, but I'm about 20 pages short. Not too bad in the scheme of things. I am still really liking this book -- Ms. Mantel has taken an often told historical period and made it modern and engaging.

Before we get started, my partner, Leah of Amused by Books, was dealt a terrible tragedy with the unexpected death of her father last weekend. She is taking either a temporary or permanent hiatus from our read along, for obvious reasons. She needs to care for her self and her family. I wish her love, comfort and peace of mind during this heartbreaking loss.

One of our read alongees, Elise of Once, Oh Marvelous Once, is going to share some of her thoughts about the book in light of Leah's absence.

To this point, what or who do you find the most intriguing:

Gerbera Daisy Diaries: This story is not new – it’s the subject of many historical fiction novels, it’s been made into a major motion picture – but overall, I’m surprised at how fresh Mantel’s writing makes this feel. This conflict with Henry/Katherine/Anne/Wolsey/Norfolk/Suffolk – could be any modern day powerplay. Cromwell could just as easily be a Hollywood agent as he tries to get his “client” the King, what he wants. It just shows that human nature is really timeless. People having been trying to “have their cake and eat it too” for millennia. Also, Cromwell is fascinating. He survives (or it seems he will – I haven’t gotten to that point) his association with Wolsey to become an advisor to the King. Washington lobbyists could be so lucky!

Elise: I don't know this story hugely well, I have a friend who is Henry VIII mad and want to call her and find out the specifics because I am so confused!! I'm also confused by popular culture and history and really struggling to take this as a story in itself, and not a strict true historical account. I keep thinking back to The Other Boleyn Girl (of which I have only seen the film, not read the book) which is apparently quite fictional, and am completely confused now!! However I am really interested in the character of Rafe, a young man taken in by Thomas Cromwell. He seems like a smart kid and I feel that he is important to the story. Not sure where it's going with him or if I'm right though!!

So far, Anne is still on the periphery, but do you have any thoughts or feelings about her:

GDD: Years ago, there was a book written (in the States anyway) called “The Rules.” In its essence it was written as a template to find the man of your dreams by doing, or not doing, certain things. Every time Anne is referenced or introduced in dialogue I immediately think, “She was the FIRST Rules woman!” She used every womanly sexual instinct (good and bad) to get what she wanted. Not sure Henry was the man of her dreams after all, since she lost her head over him. But it worked for awhile. Also, and this is a segue, but, Henry and Anne remind me of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, two people who couldn’t live with or without each other for very long.

Elise: Well I know that she is going to end up headless at the end of this story! I feel that she is a bit of a femme fatale, that she will do anything to get her way. Mary (her sister) has identified her virtue of 'perseverance' and I think it is historically clear that this is true. Anne is like that girl at school that you never speak to, but know about. She is always around and always the centre of gossip but not someone that you would ever have the courage to speak to or even want to speak to. She is also currently too much on the periphery for me to feel any emotional connection or empathy towards her.

What, if any, are your thoughts on the religious conflict:

GDD: Not being Catholic, I’m at a disadvantage of not knowing doctrine or cannon law to understand the intricacies of what happened, but as a spiritual/religious person, I’m gobsmacked that this was so ruthless, political and so NOT spiritual. Now, I’m not totally na├»ve to know that the Papacy was not the most honorable institution at this time and prone to corruption, but the wheeling and dealing that took place to get this done, initially, is against all that I believe.

Elise: This isn't something that has really affected me so far. Is that a terribly naive and ignorant thing to say about this book? Probably! I understand that during this time period, Henry's desire for a marriage annulment or divorce resulted in the creation of the Church of England as a separate entity and resulted in Henry VIII's excommunication by the Pope. It is so ruthless and cunning that I find it difficult to associate this with any form of fact. At the moment for me, it is great as part of a fictional plot, but I think once I've finished and reflect I will be able to appreciate the impact of it all.

Thank you Elise for sharing your thoughts.

If anyone is reading along with us and would like to ask/offer discussion issues, feel free!