The reading continues. In theory, this should have been our last weekly post, but I'm still about 200 pages from finishing, so I'm sure we will post at least 2 more weeks. Cromwell is such a fascinating figure -- this individual who is respected by all, regardless of whether you are a Katherine-ite or an Anne-ite.
Here is our discussion for this week:
Amused By Books: How's the reading coming? I feel like maybe we are coming into a little more action. Here's some questions for our discussion and feel free to add some more!
Gerbera Daisy Diaries: The pace is definitely quickening…I’m up to 340 – still behind, but not too bad.
1. The burning at the stake scene of the 'witch'. Let's discuss!
Amused By Books: It was horrific but I was left wondering what part it played in the story. I am often left wondering this with lots of scenes: why was this added in? I can only assume this was to still show us that Cromwell, while he is rising to power, still has a heart. He was deeply affected by the woman who was burned at the stake, whereas it seemed like a lot of those in the crowd were not. On another note, I think Mantel did a great job evoking the sights and sounds of this scene, which some parts have lacked.
Gerbera Daisy Diaries: One of the most effectively graphic scenes I have read in literature. I was left gasping. When the women’s friends and family come to gather her remains, and they wipe a portion on Cromwell’s cheek – I’m not even sure I can explain how I felt: Numb, mortified, sickened – so many emotions by one scene and sentence. I think you have a point – What does this have to do with the big picture? My only explanation: To give a more complete picture of who Thomas Cromwell is and what he has endured; to show how once he becomes the King’s advisor, he isn’t swayed by religious arguments – he is all about legal solutions/negotiations to solve Henry’s marriage problems absent the Pope; also, to show readers the madness that was gripping 16th century England and how that had an effect years later.
2. Cromwell seems to be fully rising to the peak of his power. How is handling it?
ABB: Maybe I am missing some things but to me Cromwell still seems to be a pretty good man at the heart of things. He wants to still do things for his family. When they went on that trip to France he was bringing poor people home to give them a roof over their head. Sometimes I feel like I missing some things because Mantel often insists on referring to multiple men in one scene as just "he" and, well, how the heck am I supposed to keep them all straight, but generally, I do think that Cromwell seems to be balancing his power well with both humor and kindness and that makes him someone worth admiring and there aren't a lot of people in this book who I would say that about.
GDD: One of my favorite scenes so far is Cromwell’s treatment of Henry Percy, once Percy decides to tell the “world” that he indeed was married to Anne Boleyn. It’s something strait out of Goodfellas or The Sopranos – he walks into the bar and basically gives Henry “an offer he can’t refuse.” (OK, that was the Godfather, but you get what I mean). He is this ruthless negotiator, but with a level head. He seems so admired by his peers – on both sides of this Henry/Katherine/Anne issue. I think HE is always Cromwell.
3. Anne Boleyn, in this section of the book, has finally reached her quest and become Queen of England. What do you think of Mantel's version of Anne?
ABB: I don't like Anne. She is not painted as an admirable figure at all. Knowing what we know, that she will be beheaded soon, I often find myself wondering if she really thinks this would all have been worth it. I mean she seems so pinched and angry at pretty much everyone around her - what an awful way to live one’s life. When they travel to France, she has to stay behind because it isn't safe for her to go forward because the rumors about her are so unkind. Her own people don't like her. I don't know, I guess I just often found myself wondering if it was all really worth it to her in the end.
GDD: No! You mean she becomes Queen??!! (tee hee!) I’m not there yet. But, yes, I agree, there is absolutely nothing redeeming about Mantel’s Anne. She is the master manipulator. I think a person like her, would never realize how bad things are going to be – and why should she? She’s got Henry, literally, by the balls (sorry, there is no other way to describe it). I’m sure she envisions that she will wield this kind of power of him forever.
A couple of comments/questions:
GDD: I’m surprised how FUNNY some of the dialogue is!! On page 296, Anne is retelling the Old Testament story of Jezebel and her demise (she was thrown out of a window and eaten by wild dogs). Anne says, “if anyone is to be thrown out of a palace window…Thomas, I know who I would like to throw. Except the child Mary, the wild dogs would not find a scrap of flesh to gnaw, and Katherine, she is so fat she would bounce.” I laughed out loud at that comment! Oh -- and I think that may explain the "shrimp" comment -- she may be TINY -- not ugly!
ABB: Totally agree! I think it's kind of unexpected in some ways because the story for most part, to me anyway can seem so dry and factual and then all of a sudden there are these really funny and/or gripping scenes that kind of throw you for a loop!
GDD: Also, what is the significance (if any) of the painting/tapestry/art that Cromwell has hanging in the entry of Austin Friars? I know it was a Wolsey’s and was gifted to Cromwell from the King. Everyone that comes to visit mentions it. Again, it may mean nothing other than the obvious: it is of value and a gift from the King.
ABB: I don't know but I wish I did! Do any of our fair readers know? I wish there was a picture of them in the book so we knew what they were. Maybe this weekend I could try to google them and see if I could uncover something about their significance!
If you haven any comments or thoughts, please share them with us! The reading continues!