Published: Picador, 08/31/2010
Language: English |
Historians can argue over the validity of such an assessment-- it would seem like a severe case of nit-picking, given the obviously immense amount of research put into the book-- but Mantel's characterizations of Cromwell and his chief rival, Thomas More, sets up a philosophical conflict that is at the heart of the novel. Although Thomas More is usually depicted as a hero (A Man For All Seasons comes to mind) for refusing to sanction the king's divorce, in Wolf Hall he is shown to be a fanatic with a rigid sense of morality and justice. Spoiler alert: More was eventually executed and given a sainthood for his trouble, while English majors continue to study his--admittedly classic-- Utopia and do their best not to think about his ruthless persecution of "heretics."
Mantel forcefully makes the case that one should try to live in the world as it is, not as it should be-- a simple but resoundingly powerful philosophy that informs the entirety of the work. Wolf Hall is no mere writing exercise, but is instead imbued with a strong sense of purpose that is rare in our irony-soaked age. I'm afraid that I barely scratched the surface of this book-- not to mention its sequel, now out in paperback-- nor have I even touched on the subject of Mantel's highlighter-worthy prose, but blog posts have limitations. Mantel, fortunately, has few.