About Me

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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

45. – 558.) Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel – I do not often seek out book prize winners but Wolf Hall, the 2009 Man Prize winner, was everywhere in bookstores at the end of last year and early this year. Universally well reviewed and featuring powerful characters from English history I was drawn to the saga.
Thomas Cromwell barely survives brutal lout for a father. His exceptional intelligence and a supportive sister allow him to escape from the village.
By the mid-1520’s he is a lawyer for Cardinal Thomas Woolsey, Chancellor of England for King Henry VIII. In this position Cromwell embodies the role of lawyer as counselor rather than advocate. He is a skilled adviser to the Chancellor manipulating the complex dynastic politics of the Tudor court.
With history having already determined the ultimate fate of the characters I had a continuing feeling of impending doom knowing the future of many characters as the King strives to end his marriage to Queen Catherine and wed the calculating Anne Boleyn. None foresaw the schism within the Church and resulting upheavals coming from that quest.
Anne Boleyn is Cromwell’s equal in royal maneuvering, patiently manipulating the king, coolly moving forward to achieve her goal of marriage to the king. Cromwell, in dealing with Boleyn, shows yet another lawyer’s skill in never compromising is representation of the Cardinal while  maintaining a close relationship with the aspiring Boleyn.
Cromwell upholds a lawyer’s obligations to a client by remaining loyal to the Cardinal even when his client is cast aside by the King. While never compromising his loyalty Cromwell assists the King. Recognizing Cromwell’s blend of integrity and skill, the King makes this commoner his primary legal adviser.
In this position Cromwell reveals he is also a fine legal craftsman as he drafts the laws that eliminate the Pope as head of the Church in England.
Cromwell is the man who gets things done enabling the king to have his new queen.
With a new Queen in place and the Church under control Cromwell further demonstrates his overall mastery of the legal profession by his skillful advocacy in prosecuting Thomas More.
Seeing Thomas More portrayed as a cruel and rigid administrator fully ready, even eager, to burn as heretics the men and women wanting to read the Bible in English was a jarring contrast from More’s image in the movie A Man for All Seasons. He inexplicably becomes principled to the point of martyrdom after Henry has been made head of the English Church.
I did find the use of “he” rather than “I” by Mantel for Cromwell disconcerting in structure when Cromwell speaks as an “I” rather than a “he”.
Mantel does brilliantly portray a man who rises from humble origins to great positions because of his intelligence and physical presence. He moves comfortably among the aristocracy uncaring of their disdain for his background. Mantel’s Cromwell is a vivid figure. He loves his family.
Above all he is a consummate lawyer using all his many talents on behalf of his clients. I will be interested in how he deals with Boleyn’s trial in the sequel. Cromwell was a reluctant prosecutor of More whose stubborn refusal to compromise meant death. Cromwell will not be able to so easily justify his role in trying and executing Boleyn to allow the King to wed again.
From the author’s skill in portraying Cromwell as a lawyer I thought she might have had legal training. Reading about her after completing the book confirmed she studied law. Hardcover. (Dec. 3/10)


Curious about other views of More and Boleyn I turned to my Folio Society Notable Historical Trials to read of the trials of More and Boleyn.

1 comment:

  1. I read this in the kindle edition which did not include a list of the main protagonists, which can be found in the book edition, and consequently I found it difficult at the beginning to work out who was 'speaking'. Once I was used to the style of writing, I couldn't put it down. Hilary Mantel's descriptions of time and place are exquisite.