Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
Through a jaw-dropping array of easily identifiable, authentically voiced characters, each with the discernible quirks of personality that all carry and convey, Hilary Mantel brings this tale alive in a way that I’ve rarely, if ever, come across in this kind of fact/fiction novel.
The pitch-perfect characterisation of the multitude of players involved means you become immediately invested in their lives and the story to such a degree that it becomes an experience shared, and which lives with you long after the final words have been absorbed.
With an ear for dialogue and how communication is used as a tool between players, yet also as a source of pleasure at other times, Hilary provides the reader with a massive amount of pleasure when witnessing the exchanges that occur between them.
These exchanges are so alive and fresh that something that happened around 600 years ago feels contemporary and vital, yet sufficiently authentic to place you in this other time and place on its own terms; to feel so involved as a contemporary in what would be an alien world is no mean feat and is one of the many reasons to congratulate this hugely talented writer.
The immediacy of Mantel’s chosen style fits perfectly with her choice of narrator and is another mark of a writer at the top of her game. The invisible hand that guides the book, much as he is the relatively invisible hand guiding the better known principals through one of the pivotal moments in England’s history, is so thoroughly alive and authentic that we inhabit him from the get-go, and he guides and maintains our involvement from the beginning to the end as any good counsellor should.
Similar to our guide through the story, the author has a lightness of touch in her style that means her descriptions never feel forced or pretentious. This apparently effortless evocation of time and place means that all you are aware of and care about is the journey that these characters are on, and accompanying them on it from the beginning to the end.
Infused with humour and humanity throughout, this character-driven piece is so thoroughly entertaining and engrossing that I cannot recommend it enough. Put aside any preconceptions you may have about this period in history, or in historical novels, or in this book in particular, and indulge yourself in this great work.
Cannot wait to read the next instalment.