11 December 2011

Wolf Hall Readalong, Parts 3 and 4

Note: This is the second of three posts for the Wolf Hall Readalong co-hosted by Nicole at Linus's Blanket and me, so be prepared for spoilers. Readalong participants should add their post's link into the Linky below so we can read your thoughts. Also, remember to use the hashtag on Twitter #WolfHallReadalong so we can stay in the loop with everyone if there are questions (or grumbles).

This week's section was much longer than our first week, but my, oh my. I love what I'm reading now and the action stepped up considerably in this section, don't you think? From Cromwell and Johane breaking up, to Henry VIII meeting with the King of France, to monks being burned at the stake for their support of Tyndale...oh, my. The pacing, at points, felt to me as though it were a suspenseful thriller of momentous events, punctuated by the stillness of deep sorrow which made my heart ache.

Cromwell continues to be an all-around exceptional human being in this representation from Hilary Mantel, and while at times it felt almost unbelievable that he could be this perfect, I went along with it because of the beautiful writing. While simultaneously loyal to family and friends, Cromwell is also a brilliant adviser, a tough and reasonable strategist. Not to mention, he is an animal lover (and endearing enough is the fact that he likes to name all his dogs Bella). Again, there are splashes of reminders that he can also hold his own when it comes to a fight. He's just THE MAN, in this story at least. As you all may recall from last week, I'm not especially knowledgeable about the Tudors, so I am trusting that, while personality traits may be fictionalized, the events itself are accurate. Regardless, despite any doubts, when I compare Thomas Cromwell to Thomas More in this book? Thomas More was a malevolent, vile creature who tortured people and was abusive to his wife. Cromwell continues to be a just and loyal man.

Two players in this section that made me research a bit more
Thomas More
Charles Brandon
Major Events
  • Cromwell gets a seat in Parliament, representing Taunton.
  • The King's advisers are preparing no fewer than forty-four charges against the cardinal, from the violation of the statues of praemunire (the upholding of a foreign jurisdiction within the king's realm, to buying beef for his household at the same price as the king, financial malfeasance, to failing to halt the spread of Lutheran heresies. (Good gracious. If there were any indication that the cardinal was not liked before, it's fairly evident now. Nonsense charges.)
  • Thomas' sister and brother-in-law succumb to the sweating sickness. (Thomas has lost his wife, his two daughters, and his sister and brother-in-law. I can't believe how sad this has become, but while I realize these were not the healthiest of times, it's still so depressing.)
  • Cardinal Wolsey is arrested November 1, 1530 and dies November 29, 1530 from an unnamed illness. (I felt for Cromwell, as this man was key to him and treated him well. It was a sad moment that Cromwell wasn't with Wolsey in his final moments.)
  • On the last day of 1530, Cromwell is sworn into the King's council.
  • Thomas and Johane, his sister-in-law, who had begun discreetly dating after his wife passed away, break up in one of the most moving sections of the book. (p.288)
  • Harry Percy claims he and Lady Anne Boleyn are married, causing a brief stir of potential calamity for the Boleyns' quest to have Anne be the Queen.
  • Cromwell and Mary Boleyn have a moment in which they somewhat kiss, but it appears she was initially waiting for Lord Stafford. (Gah. I was thrilled for Cromwell, but then was embarrassed for him that she's waiting for someone else.)
  • The prophetess, Elizabeth Barton, predicts to Henry VIII that he will only reign for seven months if he marries Lady Anne.
Again, my, oh my. So many events occurred throughout this week's section that with Mantel's construction of events and writing, it became a completely engrossing week for me and I couldn't put it down. I still feel conflicted about Cromwell because while part of me initially believed he seemed a little too perfect, I look at my notes and am reminded that less than one month after Cardinal Wolsey dies, Cromwell is then sworn into the King's council. I feel a little uncomfortable by this at first, because I want Cromwell to be this perfect man, but for him to now be a supporter and trusted adviser of the king who turned his back on Wolsey was unnerving. Of course, I then am even more conflicted, since really, what else can Cromwell do? Turn down being part of the King's council? Not really. This was the time of torture, burning at the stake, etc.

A Few Passages
Why are we so attached to the severities of the past? Why are we so proud of ourselves for having endured our fathers and our mothers, the fireless days and the meatless days, the cold winters and the sharp tongues? It's not as if we had a choice. Even Liz, once when they were young, when she'd seen him early in the morning putting Gregory's shirt to warm before the fire, even Liz had said sharply, don't do that, he'll expect it every day. (p.287)

"I hope I can always look myself in the face. And you, Johane, you should always have a fine glass to see yourself. As you're a woman worth looking at." You could write a sonnet, Thomas Wyatt could write her a sonnet, and not make this effect...She turns her head away, but through the thin film of her veil he can see her skin glow. Because women will coax: tell me, just tell me something, tell me your thoughts; and this he has done. (p.288)

Any year before this, the king would have gone to pray at Becket's shrine and leave a rich offering. But Becket was a rebel against the Crown, not the sort of archbishop we like to encourage at the moment. In the cathedral the incense is still hanging in the air from Warham's interment, and prayers for his soul are a constant drone like the buzz of a thousand hives.... Rafe visits the shrine. It is his first time. He comes back wide-eyed, saying it is covered in jewels the size of goose eggs. (p.365)

Click here for more images
Another week of beautiful writing and a compelling story. I am ecstatic that I am reading this book.

What did you think of the Parts 3 and 4? Post your thoughts on your blog and add the link to the Linky below. If you are participating and don't have a blog, go ahead and leave your thoughts in a comment below. If you have already read it, feel free to add your thoughts as well!


  1. I love the way you do your reviews! I'm enjoying the book a great deal. I love how Ms. Mantel draws you in to the moment. What a period in time.

  2. Oh, I am so glad you are loving it! It bodes well for me!

  3. I'm so sorry to say I have to stop reading with you guys. I'm losing control of December, with so much to do I have to wave the white flag in a few areas... this is one.

    When I pick up the book again, I will come back and comment.

    Good luck finishing the book, I hope you love it!

  4. I just posted my thoughts on Part II and IV (more scattered than yours, I'm afraid). Part IV showed the dangers of Henry's court....This seems like a book that will probably still be working in my mind after I finish reading it, but right now it is slow going.