Wolf Hall Readalong: Week 1

During August and September I am taking part in a readalong of Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel’s Booker Prize-winning novel about Thomas Cromwell. The readalong is hosted by Michelle of The True Book Addict and Kai of Fiction State of Mind. This week we have been reading Part One, which consists of three chapters.

Here are my answers to this week’s discussion questions:

1) What prompted you to join this read-a-long?

As an avid reader of historical fiction I should probably have read this book before now, but for some reason, despite its success and popularity, I never got around to reading it. Now that the sequel, Bring Up the Bodies, has been released and getting so much praise and attention too, it seemed like the perfect time to finally read Wolf Hall, and when I saw that there was going to be a readalong it helped motivate me to actually pick the book up and start reading. I also like the way this readalong is structured and hopefully I won’t have any problems keeping up with the schedule!

2) What do you think of Thomas so far?

I don’t feel that I know Thomas Cromwell very well yet, but as I’ve still only read the first three chapters I’m sure I’ll get to know and understand him better as I read on. However, each of these first three chapters has given us an insight into a different side of Thomas’s character. In the first, we get a glimpse of what appears to have been a very unhappy childhood, living with a cruel and abusive father. In the second, we meet Thomas again as an adult and we are shown his public persona, the part he is playing in the politics of the country, and his interactions with other important historical figures such as Stephen Gardiner and Cardinal Wolsey. And in the third we see Thomas in his role as a husband and father.

3) What do you think about Thomas’s feelings towards his son Gregory? Do you think he is too indulgent? Do you think his treatment of Gregory now will affect Gregory’s future?

I think it’s a good thing that Thomas is trying to avoid treating Gregory the way his own father treated him. This quote gives us a good idea of his feelings on this subject:

Bawling, strong, one hour old, plucked from the cradle: he kissed the infant’s fluffy skull and said, I shall be as tender to you as my father was not to me. For what’s the point of breeding children, if each generation does not improve on what went before?

I don’t think Thomas is being too indulgent, but it’s too early to say at this point in the novel what effect his treatment of Gregory will have on Gregory’s future.

See Kai’s post for other participants’ thoughts on Part 1 of Wolf Hall.

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6 thoughts on “Wolf Hall Readalong: Week 1

  1. Jo says:

    I still have this book on my shelf unread and hardback copy too! If life had nt been so up & down I think I. Ight have joined in this one.

    Will look forward to your thoughts and it is a great way of breaking down a book. I am thinking of doing that with Tess of the D’Urbervilles.

    • Helen says:

      I’ve been meaning to read it since it was first published but it never seemed to be the right time. I’m enjoying it so far and wish I hadn’t waited so long! Good luck with Tess of the d’Urbervilles, by the way – I read it a few years ago and loved it.

  2. Lisa says:

    I’ve heard such good things about these two books. They’ve been coming up on the Dorothy Dunnett listserv that I belong to, with generally enthusiastic comments.

  3. Anbolyn Potter (@anbolynp) says:

    I adore Wolf Hall! I think it is brilliant, fascinating and beautifully written. Mantel has made Thomas Cromwell into one of the most complex characters I’ve ever encountered. I own a copy of Bring Up the Bodies, but don’t want to read it until I can savor it – maybe when I go on vacation next month!

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