Wolf Hall - why can't I get into it?

(63 Posts)
zenoushka Mon 11-Mar-13 11:29:22

This is my second attempt at trying to read Wolf Hall, I've done a bit better and have managed to get myself to page 62 ( the first time I only managed to get to page 44 before I gave up).

My dad and best friend have absolutely raved about it, saying how amazing it is and that I have to stick with it and will realise how good it is. But quite frankly I'm just finding it a slog. At tips or advice? I love reading about the Tudors and am really interested in the period, but the grammar in the Book is really confusing me too...

Poledra Mon 11-Mar-13 11:32:58

I found Wolf Hall quite difficult to get into, but enjoyed it after I'd managed it - probably took me about 100 pages or so though. Bring Up the Bodies I found much easier, and raced through it in a few days. No tips other than persistence, though...

zenoushka Mon 11-Mar-13 11:42:56

Thanks - I've got the rest of the week off from work and am going to sit down and just persevere and see how I get on!

A friend of mine said it was about page 250 or even 300 before she was gripped....I am struggling, and have been on and off for a long time. I think it is the sort of book you need to sit and read, without interruption. Bring up the Bodies was a lot easier. Friend said that you just need to remember to concentrate on key characters....there are so many, it is easy to lose the plot.

Am reading Wiggo's biography for a spot of light relief now...

greygeek Mon 11-Mar-13 11:47:48

I've just finished it and found that the strange mix of first person and third person narrative very difficult to get on with at the start - sometimes you had no idea who was speaking o what was happening. But I persevered and very much enjoyed the descriptions of life in the period and the political intrigues. The characters do come to life for you and despite the fact that the overall story is well known it still has a strong narrative of its own. For me it slightly fizzled out at the end - no doubt to lure me to buy the sequel!

PuppyMonkey Mon 11-Mar-13 11:47:52

Probably best if I avoid mentioning the shite ending here.grin

AnyFucker Mon 11-Mar-13 11:52:24

I gave up on it too

A complete bore, I found

highlandcoo Mon 11-Mar-13 11:53:40

Just remember that when Hilary Mantel uses "he" she is almost always referring to Cromwell. It took me until half-way through the book to work that out and after that it got much easier.

For example, she might be describing the king in one paragraph, then in the next paragraph she starts with "He" and you assume she's still talking about the king, but it's actually Cromwell. Every time.

HTH smile

zenoushka Mon 11-Mar-13 12:08:33

Thanks all! Right off to make a cup of tea and then I'm going to see how I get on. Will keep you posted....

Magimedi Mon 11-Mar-13 12:54:32

I was really put off reading it by so amny people saying how difficult it was.

I found a copy in a charity shop so bought it, started it & virtually ignored everyone & everything for a couple of days whilst I devoured it. I was entranced from the start & just loved it.

But I do find if I make a couple of tries at a book & don't get on with it then I give up. Too many books out ther eto waste time struggling!

CharlotteBronteSaurus Mon 11-Mar-13 12:58:43

i found it hard going to get started. once i'd got my head around the "he...." business it helped. Also, I never studied this period, and it took me a while to get eg all the assorted Thomases differentiated in my head. Wikipedia helped blush.
I was gripped by the end.

alibeen Mon 11-Mar-13 13:05:34

Do stick with it, and I wouldn't say that if it wasn't one of my favourite books of all time. What's tricky is the way Thomas Cromwell is referrerd to as 'he' a lot of the time when you aren't sure who 'he' is and getting your head round the multiple characters, families and, courtiers.
I frequently had to look back through the pages to remind myself who someone was and what their allegiances were but it's worth the effort, honestly.

TunipTheVegedude Mon 11-Mar-13 13:12:49

I couldn't get on with it because I had the hardback and it was too heavy. I bought a Kindle and got it on that (such was my devotion) and I was away. Also what Highlandcoo says - if in doubt, 'he' means Cromwell.

BTW any Cromwell fans suffering from withdrawal symptoms, go to british-history.ac.uk and read the Letters and Papers of Henry VIII, Foreign And Domestic. It will blow your mind.

PetiteRaleuse Mon 11-Mar-13 13:13:40

I loved the story, the descriptions, but hated the way it was written in the present tense and the use of he. It's a shame, I don't hink that choice of style added anything to it, and made what could have been an amazing read into something a bit tedious.

louloutheshamed Mon 11-Mar-13 16:57:00

I have tried a couple of times too. Can I just skip it and go straight to BUTBs as I like that part of the story better?

I'm struggling too. My sis raved about it but I really don't like the style of writing. Maybe I'll give it another go.

StephaniePowers Mon 11-Mar-13 17:08:22

The 'he' thing is a hurdle. She wrote the next one more clearly for that reason, I believe.

It's a sensory feast, especially when he describes fabrics and textures, but also food. I know it's an author's job to describe these things but I loved the way Mantel wove everything together in the book, events and opinions and textures and smells...

zenoushka Mon 11-Mar-13 21:36:48

Update: well I have persevered and I must admit that it has got better. I've got to page 100 and am getting my head round the whole 'he' issue much better too. I wouldn't yet say I am absolutely riveted, but I no longer want to give up.

ladydepp Tue 12-Mar-13 11:04:09

It took me a while to get into it too, but I would now categorise it as one of my top 10 favourite books of all time.
I am waiting for BUTB in paperback and can't wait, might try to save it for my summer holidays.....

But hey, life is too short to waste on a book you don't like!

zenoushka Tue 12-Mar-13 11:50:02

I hate giving up on books! But you're right, life is too short. However, I must admit that reading Wolf Hall in big chunks has definitely made it easier to get into. It's definitely started to grip me.

IndridCold Tue 12-Mar-13 17:23:00

The 'He' thing is a bit strange, but once you've got to grips with it it rattles along quite quickly I found. I've just to had to explain to DH how it works.

The cast list is quite big and confusing, but compared with that of A Place of Greater Safety (which I also loved) it's an absolute doddle grin. I found that both these books really brought history alive for me.

TunipTheVegedude Tue 12-Mar-13 17:45:30

It's not Hilary's fault that everyone was called Thomas grin

I agree that the characterisation and history were enough to keep the reader interest but that the writing style got in the way of that. The use of the present tense was especially irritating to me.

I agree with PetiteR that the writing style made it a tedious read, when it could have been something really excellent.

snuffaluffagus Tue 12-Mar-13 19:17:28

I love historical novels/books but just couldn't get into wolf hall and gave up a quarter of the way in. It shouldn't be that difficult to get into a book, no matter how good it is later on.

TwentiethCenturyGirl Thu 14-Mar-13 19:43:43

Wolf Hall left me cold TBH. I read it on honeymoon and with hindsight it perhaps wasn't the most appropriate choice.

After struggling with Wolf Hall, I don't know what made me decide to read BUTB but I'm so glad that I did. Not sure how or why but I found it so much more enjoyable - I completely devoured it.

Isn't it meant to be a trilogy? I can't wait for the next one if so!

Arcticwaffle Sun 17-Mar-13 19:30:03

I loved it, and am currently half way through BUTB, which I'm also gripped by. I avoided these books for ages as I don't normally like anything about the Tudors, or royal families, or royal marriages. And I haven't particularly liked previous Hilary Mantels. I still forget who is who among the minor characters but as a couple of people say, if you just concentrate on the main characters it makes more sense.

hatchibombatour Mon 18-Mar-13 16:45:21

I couldn't get into it either, and I don't have the patience any more to persevere with a book I'm not enjoying!

zenoushka Thu 04-Apr-13 17:24:35

I've managed to get to page 190 and it has got better. BUT, I'm not sure I'm really enjoying it. Finding it hard work....

MiddleAgeMiddleEngland Thu 04-Apr-13 19:59:47

I haven't read it, so can't comment, but The Oldie arrived today and it has a cartoon where a table leg (in a library, I think) is being propped up by a copy of Wolf Hall.

EuroShaggleton Fri 05-Apr-13 13:21:50

I struggled with the "he" thing too. I found it contrived and annoying.

I got to the end but was a bit underwhelmed, frankly.

Greydog Tue 16-Apr-13 09:27:50

I hated Wolf Hall. I'd really looked forward to reading it, and just thought it was rubbish. I won't waste any more time on Mantels books - except maybe to prop up table legs!

I'm so glad I'm not the only person who found this heavy going. I wanted to like it, but I thought it was turgid and didn't live up to the hype. Gave it to the charity shop. Life is absolutely too short to read books you don't enjoy.

GreenShadow Sun 21-Apr-13 19:49:04

I liked the story in itself, but just hated her writing style.

I did persevere once I had started, but have no interest in following it up with The Bodies.

minsmum Sun 21-Apr-13 20:53:37

I loved it but that was the second time of trying I would say its one of my top 10.

zenoushka Mon 22-Apr-13 15:22:13

I really am trying to enjoy it but am finding it very difficult. Just finding it such a chore every time I pick the book up...

juneau Mon 22-Apr-13 17:26:32

It's been sitting on my shelf staring at me for about two years now. I attempted it when I first bought it and gave up after about 10 pages. This post has not made me want to pick it up again!

DuchessofMalfi Mon 22-Apr-13 18:00:55

I'm going to attempt to read it in a week or so's time. I'm determined to persevere this time. I don't want it to be a chore though - life's too short grin

ProfessorDent Tue 23-Apr-13 21:03:32

I gave up around page 100. I only started on it because my sister was raving about Shardlake, and it's set a bit later it seems, so I thought I'd do it chronologically.

The style of writing owes more to a short story somehow. It just seemed kind of affected. Couldn't sympathise with anyone much and while she runs off a list of amazing talents Cromwell has, like he's some kind of Sherlock Holmes, we don't see him put much into action if I recall.

But there are plenty of others who say the same on Amazon reviews.

ProfessorDent Tue 23-Apr-13 21:05:29

Oh, virtually no lovely literary passages of description either. Sometimes I feel this is a trait of women writers (yeah, I know, but verbose passages can be a form of willy waving imo, look how great I am) but for all that Mantel doesn't offer too much psychological insight either, though there is one great passage about the shifting sands of diplomacy in the 1500s.

mrsfiddymont Tue 30-Apr-13 20:12:14

For those that didn't get on with Wolf Hall, try The Lady in the Tower, the fall of Ann Boleyn by Alison Weir.....in fact anything by Alison Weir.

JumpingJetFlash Tue 30-Apr-13 20:15:23

I found Wolf Hall much harder to get into but LOVED Bringing up the Bodies. Whole 3rd person thing took a bit to get my head round as well.

Have got tickets for RSC Bringing up the Bodies = excited!!!

instantfamily Tue 30-Apr-13 20:21:06

So glad I am not the only one.

BrienneOfTarth Tue 30-Apr-13 21:55:03

I'm also glad I'm not the only one - I'm usually a fan of historical fiction but I don't see anything prizewinning about this book. It's rather dull so far (about p120).

It took me 11 weeks to read a third of it. Realised the thought of being bored stiff reading one book for half a year was too much to endure and gave it away. Pretentious guff

TheSecondComing Thu 09-May-13 14:16:05

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

It is wonderful and you are all thick wink
Seriously, try the audiobook if the book is too much.

DuchessofMalfi Thu 09-May-13 14:59:40

I finished reading Wolf Hall last night. It took me two weeks, reading big chunks of it every day. I was determined to finish it this time, and not let it drag on too long.

Whilst there were chunks of it that I thought could have done with being edited down (sorry Hilary Mantel smile) on the whole I enjoyed reading it. It would have made a riveting 400 page novel, but was a slow going 650 pages.

Looking forward to reading Bring Up The Bodies later in the year, but I'm having a break from Cromwell's political empire-building for now.

zenoushka Thu 09-May-13 22:47:29

I've been unable to get past page 190 for the past month!

Wuldric Thu 09-May-13 22:51:15

Bring up the Bodies is easier. I gave up on Wolf Hall at the first two attempts. Was shamed into a third attempt by a friend and got there in the end.

Am currently trying the one about the French Revolution and it is MAMMOTH

I cannot help but think that Hilary Mantel needs some pruning shears. Or a braver editor

AnonYonimousBird Fri 10-May-13 10:34:55

I have the hardback sitting here, lent to me by a friend, and frankly, just looking at it terrifies me. I so want to read it, but I have lots and lots of books that I can read in the time it is going to take me to read that, ones which I am desperate to leap into, so it's been pushed back again I'm afraid....

I hate to give up before I've started, but I'd say I am several months from even opening it!

Galaxymum Fri 10-May-13 11:08:24

This book frustrates me so much because I get stuck at the same point each time I try to read it - after 4 attempts I don't want to be defeated! I love this period of history from studying it at uni (so no, I'm not defeated because I'm thick!) and I love historical accounts and fiction from this era but I just can't cope with Mantel's writing. It bores me. I love this era and the characters and it still never grabs me. The style puts me off. So it remains on my shelf!

Agree - she is not a great writer and needs some serious editing. A shame, as I do think the Cromwell of her vision is interesting, but her writing style gets in the way. I made it to the end of WH (feeling annoyed most of the way through tbh) but won't bother with BUTB.

motherinferior Fri 10-May-13 17:37:31

Oh lord, I thought it was amazing.

motherinferior Fri 10-May-13 17:38:15

You have to stop thinking of it as 'historical fiction'. It's just a really good novel. De-corset your imagination.

poozlepants Fri 10-May-13 17:40:25

Because it is pish.

UltimaThule Fri 10-May-13 17:40:38

The audiobook is utterly fabulous.

LovedayMerryweather Fri 10-May-13 17:51:05

I didn't like it - too dense for me and very confusing with all the Thomases. I think it's not for everyone for sure. If you don't like it I'd stop and read something else, too many books you will like, not enough time to read them all is my attitude smile

I don't really think you are thick confused
Was jesting, sorry.
But the audiobook is amazing grin

UltimaThule Fri 10-May-13 19:00:56

I wanted to marry the bloke who read the audiobook, his wee speech impediment and all.

Does anyone know who will play Cromwell in the upcoming adaptation?

I'd like Alan Rickman.

kelda Fri 10-May-13 19:07:01

I am reading Wolf Hall. Currently on page 185. Am managing about 4 or 5 pages a day, very slow going. I am looking up everything on the internet to try and understand the background - I barely did history at school so haven't got a clue about who is who,

I am determined to finish it, because I am quite enjoying it, even if it is hard going.

UltimaThule Fri 10-May-13 19:08:49

I read it/listened to it and used WIkipedia rather a lot grin Learned loads.

I googled and Mark Rylance is going to play him. So someone with a good pedigree and not, say, Matt Smith or someone totally unsuitable.

Alan Rickman too old, much as I love him - although Alan might at least make me want to watch it.

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