Monday, November 09, 2009

Wolf Hall

Take it as a reader response: the pleasing memories of reading Alexander Dumas returned to my mind and that was the great first impression I got from Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall. The ’09 Booker Prize winner is a remarkable achievement of prose in which the masterly skill of the author with the 16th century archaic vocabulary makes Wolfe Hall a rather good read even for the modern reader.

At the center of Wolf Hall’s narrative stands Thomas Cromwell, the emblem of self-made manhood: a cunning politician who rejects all the barriers of the strict British hierarchy to rise from the lowest class of society to the highest position in the court of Henry VIII which is only second to the King himself. Although the book represents a detailed history of the beginning years of English reformation and the Kingdom’s break from Catholicism, what makes Wolf Hall appealing to the modern reader is Mantel’s modern and tangible touch on Cromwell’s characterization.

Wolf Hall’s Thomas Cromwell is the most influential man in the English court. Yet driven by the grief of lost love and the loss of his mentor, Cromwell can be studied as a man stuck in a peculiar midlife crisis in which he finds solace in moving up the ladders of a strict hierarchy in which ‘man is wolf to man.’ Perhaps Cromwell’s soliloquies following his encounters with numerous so-called wolf-men are the best representations of his psychic struggles to justify Machiavellian success in his efforts to appease the personal grieves of past.

It is not only Thomas Cromwell but also the society in which he lives which makes Wolf Hall a world for the modern reader to identify with. Mantel’s novel is a universal take on the history of the early years of English reformation which make the reader realize how throughout history the great ideologies or reforming movements, formed through many years of hardship for the secluded thinkers or the suffering people, eventually come to be exercised and put into practice by lunatic politicians and impulsive dictators. History keeps repeating itself and Hillary Mantel represents a lesson to be learned by us modern people who either identify with Thomas Cromwell or with the world in which he mused.


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