I greatly enjoyed this sequel to Hilary Mantel’s Booker prize-winning Wolf Hall. I admired Wolf Hall greatly but found it somewhat difficult to read. This one was more purely enjoyable, almost a page turner. Part of it was that I was more used to Mantel’s style and part of it is that she seems to have toned down her style a bit. She uses an odd voice, it’s third person but from the perspective of Cromwell. Often in Wolf Hall she used the pronoun “he” and it wasn’t clear who was speaking or being referred to. She still uses the same third person voice and perspective but when the pronouns are confusing she more often says “he, Cromwell” which makes it more clear for the reader.
The style of these books makes them difficult but also make them different from anything else I’ve read. I think that is one of the reasons that both books have been so intriguing and have stuck with me. The other is that Mantel does the very difficult task of taking a familiar and even over-told story (the court of Henry VIII and his many wives) and makes it seem fresh and exciting. You know what is going to happen in the end but you still turn the pages half wondering what will happen this time to Anne Boleyn. Mantel also manages the equally difficult task of portraying Cromwell as a complex man but keeping him likable. I found myself wanting to believe that Cromwell was acting ethically even while knowing that his motives, like everyone’s, were messy and complicated.
This is the second in a planned trilogy and I look forward to reading the third and final book when it is published (even though I know how it has to end).