Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Wolf Hall Wednesday

It is Wednesday once again which means Wolf Hall discussion!! Here is what Melissa, Leah and I thought:

1. We've spent a lot of time with Henry VIII now. What do you think of him as a king?
Amused By Books: It's fascinating to me how everyone's world revolves around this one man. I know that our tide shifts a lot when we elect a new president but this seems a little ridiculous. His every whim is met without question. I don't necessarily thing Henry is portrayed as a bad or selfish person, it just amazes me how someone is given so much power, and yet, will bow to Anne Boleyn. It's all very interesting.

Gerbera Daisy Diaries: I have this slovenly, overweight, overindulged, Henry VIII in my brain, when in fact, he doesn’t sound like that at all. I suppose that caricature comes much later in his life, but in my reading, my brain still wants to project that image. I’ve admitted to being a closet anglophile (how many days did I cry when Diana died??!!!), but this royalty thing, even now, is really over the top. That he can summons Cromwell to his bedside in the middle of the night (and he has to travel by BOAT to get there) to discuss a dream is mind boggling. And with regards to Anne Boleyn – it goes back to my “rules” theory – he wants her so bad, because he CAN’T have her. I don’t think it is anything particularly unique to Anne herself, it is that the church says he can’t divorce Katherine (who I like more and more, by the way – are there any books on Katherine we can read?!) and Anne won’t give him what he wants, when EVERYONE else does.

OK, can I add a question: Why on earth to they keep referring to Mary as a “shrimp?” Is she THAT ugly???
ABB: I was thinking it was because she was shy? It could be because she's ugly!
Yes - we need to research some Katherine books once we are done that we can read because I agree, she is an intriguing figure!

Once, Oh Marvelous Once: I agree with both of you, I am so surprised that during this time a woman can have so much sway over such a powerful man. And this has proven to be historically accurate as well (still struggling to figure out the fact/fiction divide here!!). I'm getting more and more caught up in this story. I feel so ignorant about my historical knowledge and feel that I should know more given that I recently visited the Tower of London. I'm now listening to an audio dramatisation of Henry VIII by Shakespeare, most of my literary endeavours have to do with Henry at the moment. How is he so fascinating? And I can't help but think of him as overweight and very severe, as his portraits portray.

2. How are you keeping all of the characters straight?
ABB: Am I, really? Well the only thing that's helping is the fact that I have a degree in History but this wasn't my favourite time period. I'll tell you what is really helping is the proliferation of novels set in this time period that I've read recently. I don't find myself flipping to that chart at the front of the book. It's too dense of a book to waste extra time. I'm just kind of barreling through!

GDD: Um…I’m not. There was a dinner scene I just finished, and when I got to the end, I thought, “who were those people?” The biggest mysteries: Brereton, Cranmer (another Thomas! Ugh!) Wriothesley – I have no idea what roles they play, other than they keep getting mentioned. But I’m doing the same – I can’t take the time to go back to the front as a reference – I just keep turning the pages hoping that it will all make sense in the end. And honestly, I know he plays an important role after Wolsey, but I still can’t figure out Thomas More.

Oh, and this has nothing to do with your question, but I was really disappointed in her treatment of Wolsey’s death. So anticlimactic.

ABB: Totally agree about the death being anti-climactic! They went on and on about how much money it would cost to bring him from wherever he was in hiding and how much Cromwell loved him and then, poof, he was dead. He was this character that was hated by so many, you would think that people would have been cheering in the streets while Cromwell would have been crying over the death of his mentor.

OOMO: I'm really not keeping track of the characters at all I don't think. New ones get introduced, like in the dinner party you mentioned and I have no idea where they have come from!! And they all STILL have the same names. Wolsey hasn't died for me yet (but don't worry, I figured he was going to, the story is 500 years old!) but I don't know how I will feel about it when it occurs, I still haven't got my head around him and decided whether I like him or not!! I am finding the characterisation still very convoluted at this stage.

3. Wolf Hall has finally been mentioned. What kind of role do you expect it might play in upcoming events in the book?
ABB: Well if I understand what's happened correctly Wolf Hall is the ancestral home of the Seymour's and if I understand my history correctly, after Anne Boleyn, King Henry will go on to marry Jane Seymour so possibly Cromwell will help with that all at Wolf Hall. I don't know, just throwing out guesses here.

GDD: Totally agree. But so far, Mantel doesn’t portray Jane very well either. Like she is this fly on the wall -- kind of mysterious and unnoticed. I’m only speculating, but is she the one that starts the rumors about Anne and her brother George having a relationship?

OOMO: Going from MY historical knowledge of this time period, namely Wikipedia, Jane Seymour is the next next Queen, the third wife. I think there is definitely going to be something fishy going on with her, good thinking of the incest rumours!! I remember those from The Other Boleyn Girl (movie!!). I was very excited by the mention of Wolf Hall, I felt as though I was achieving something finally. Not that I'm not enjoying it, but it is a hard slog. It is like reading Anna Karenina and feeling very good about yourself when you make it to one of the few chapters that Anna is featured in. Hmm, I'm being facetious...

Anyone else out there reading Wolf Hall? Have you read it? What did you think?


Amused said...

Glad you joined in this week! Love your responses! I am with you on feeling accomplished just by reading it each week much like Anna Karenina! Keep up the great work and see you next week!

Hannah Stoneham said...

This is such an interesting discussion - the book is so complex and engrossing that I think it really makes sense to read and blog in installments like this.

thanks indeed for sharing