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A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

To read about movies and TV shows I'm watching, visit my other blog: Elliot's Watching

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Bringing history to life - or sucking the life out of it?: Wolf Hall

So someone finally said it, though it was the French (I think) ambassador and therefore a character that no one takes seriously, but he asks if Henry VIII is confusing what's good for the Tudors (i.e., Henry and kin) with what's good for Britain. Very true. All of "Wolf Hall" is about intelligent people wasting their talents in service to the egocentric and the spoiled. Anne Boleyn is now coronated as a queen, and she's pregnant, and everyone hopes it's with a son or else who knows what Henry will do to her? It's a very long novel and by this point does anyone care? I compare this with War and Peace, which I read recently (see posts) - granted, readers endure some longeurs and Tolstoy expounds on his theory of history, but that's a novel that brings history to life and Wolf Hall sucks the life out of it. By this point I'm plodding from event to event, not feeling I have any deep understanding of motivation of character, at the individual or micro level, nor feeling that I am gaining any understanding of the great forces of world history at the macro level. Henry wants a male heir, a hot new wife, and the wealth of the clergy, and some degree of independence from Roman (Papal) authority - while maintaining an alliance with France. Is that it? But this novel seems to trivialize him and his entourage - selfish, backbiting, self-consciously clever. I would not have read this far had it not been for book group; one member, who suggested Wolf Hall, loved the book and could not put it down. Will I once again be in a lonely minority?

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