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Hilary Mantell

(51 Posts)
Makeitgoaway Thu 26-Mar-20 20:00:49

Will I find her too difficult?

I'm not stupid but I don't enjoy a heavy going book. I like something that makes you think but not too hard.

The trilogy sounds like something I "should" read, how difficult are they?

OP’s posts: |
ParisInTheSpringtime Thu 26-Mar-20 20:04:21

I just found (am finding) her dull.

Makeitgoaway Thu 26-Mar-20 20:09:55

Oh, why so popular and award winning then?

OP’s posts: |
N0tfinished Thu 26-Mar-20 20:11:54

I enjoyed them. They're pretty dense but not too worthy. I didn't find them at all dry because the characters & the plot are interesting. If you like historical fiction, it's definitely worth a shot.

scunner Thu 26-Mar-20 20:15:37

You could listen to extracts on Radio 4/BBC Sounds. It has been serialised these last two weeks. This will give you the opportunity to see if the style suits you.

ProperVexed Thu 26-Mar-20 20:20:16

Wolf Hall and bring Up the Bodies were heavy going. You really need to concentrate but they were brilliant. However, I'm struggling with The Mirror and the Light. I just can't seem to concentrate on it enough. Hoping isolation will improve things.

ageingdisgracefully Tue 31-Mar-20 11:14:55

I've just finished Mirror and Light and I've just started Wolf Hall again. It took me a couple of goes to get into Wolf Hall. It IS hard going. I think it helps if you have a genuine interest in that period in history so have a background knowledge to start with.
I guess Mantel meant for the three books to stand alone so there's a bit of repetition. I must admit I found MaL overlong and somewhat self-indulgent in parts. However towards the end the pace really picks up as Cromwell's grasp on things loosens and he falls out of favour.

Googling the characters as I was going along helped. To be fair to Mantel, she brings these people masterfully to life. She can't help that there are SO many Thomases, Henrys, Elizabeths and Marysgrin.

The BBC series is a massive help, even if only to get an eyeful of Mark Rylance. blush

poppadopolis Tue 31-Mar-20 11:53:02

However, I'm struggling with The Mirror and the Light.

Glad it's not just me! I often can't work out who is in the scene or where they are. She uses "he" a lot - it mostly refers to Cromwell but not always.

I was looking forward to it as I loved the previous two. Maybe our lockdown has messed with my concentration.

ageingdisgracefully Tue 31-Mar-20 12:33:46

I agree the use of "he" is confusing. I don't why Mantel can't say "he, Cromwell" more.

The other thing I struggled with was trying to imagine the places and, as previously pointed out, who was present in the scene. And calling the same person by a different name was confusing as well. So Wriothesely is sometimes Call-Me and also Risley. Wyatt is Guiett and also Hoyet. Also Brandon/Suffolk and Norfolk/Howard is confusing.

One name is enough, in my uneducated view.

One thing I didn't understand: why, if Wyatt had supposedly had an affair with Anne B, was he spared and not the others? confused

poppadopolis Tue 31-Mar-20 14:05:30

Also Brandon/Suffolk and Norfolk/Howard is confusing.

Yes!! This. I am reading on a kindle and realise that I possibly enjoyed the "proper" books more as it was easy to just flick back to the family trees at the front.

Steamfan Tue 31-Mar-20 14:08:47

I started reading Wolf Hall, and it was the dullest book I've ever read. However the size of it was useful for propping up a table. I was very glad to see that a few people I know who are historians loathed it as well!

KeithLeMonde Tue 31-Mar-20 15:17:08

If you don't like the Cromwell novels, you could try one of her others.

I read this and enjoyed it a lot before I had heard of Mantel, certainly long before she won the Booker:

(it's dark though, I have to warn you - but everything I've read by her has had a real nasty streak at its heart)

WillowSummerSloth Tue 31-Mar-20 15:50:23

I bought the Mirror and The Light as I didn't realise it was a trilogy. Can I read it as a stand alone novel or do I need to read the first 2? Thanks

ageingdisgracefully Tue 31-Mar-20 17:45:07

I think it would work as a stand-alone, but maybe mug up on the background first (if you don't have any knowledge of the period, that is..)

Lots of Thomases grin

glitterbiscuits Tue 31-Mar-20 17:47:14

I'm reading Beyond Black. It's a modern novel. Fairly easy to read. Although nothing much is happening in the book so far, its a bit dull.

Pinkerpellosa Tue 31-Mar-20 17:51:06

I was feeling a bit dense for not enjoying Wolf Hall. I'll ditch it now though if it's not going to get any better. I'm about one fifth in

peaceanddove Tue 31-Mar-20 17:52:37

@ageingdisgracefully the reason Wyatt was spared was because Cromwell liked him and because he had promised Wyatt's father that he would look out for him. Cromwell had total control over how the trials of Anne Boleyn and her 'lovers' played out and he totally controlled what information was revealed. So it was relatively easy to protect Wyatt.

rosegoldwatcher Tue 31-Mar-20 17:54:25

One thing I didn't understand: why, if Wyatt had supposedly had an affair with Anne B, was he spared and not the others?

From what I recall, Cromwell promised Wyatt's father that he would look out for his son. In the round up of men accused of having liaison with Anne Boleyn, Wyatt was imprisoned but was never brought before the trial court The other accused men were on Cromwell's personal hit list.

Musmerian Tue 31-Mar-20 17:57:59

They are absolute genius. @WillowSummerSloth - you do really need to start with Wolf Hall and read them in order I wouldn’t just start with The Mirror and The Light. I was due to see her at the Hay Festival this summersad

Roomba Tue 31-Mar-20 18:06:15

I absolutely love her stuff. I did find Bring up the Bodies a bit easier with the whole 'he' thing than Wolf Hall - I read somewhere years ago that she made more of an effort in that one to make clear who 'he' was referring to in each bit as Wolf Hall readers were so confused! I've not finished the final one yet but am really enjoying it.

My favourite of all is A Place of Greater Safety - had no interest in the French Revolution when I started it but was obsessed by the end. And I found Beyond Black very dark but wonderfully written. Though I did lend it to a colleague who was obsessed with magic, Derren Brown, Cold Reading and so on, thinking he'd love it due to the subject matter. He returned it saying it was 'messed up' and gave me wary looks whenever I recommended anything after that grin

rosegoldwatcher Tue 31-Mar-20 18:09:56

I adored the first two and have just started The Mirror and The Light.
I don't think that they are 'difficult' in the same way that some classics are (Silas Marner!!!!!!!!!!) Her writing style is very 'marmite' though - you will either love it or dislike it.
If you have a Kindle you could, perhaps, download the sample chapters of Wolf Hall.

ageingdisgracefully Tue 31-Mar-20 19:43:08

Thanks peace and rose. I googled and reread the part in the book where it talks about Wyatt - much clearer now.

JellyfishandShells Tue 31-Mar-20 20:00:48

I hate her pedestrian writing style ( and high level of self regard) but enjoyed the serialisation of the latest book on Radio 4 last week, due in most part to the fantastic reading of it by Anton Lesser

WeBuiltCisCityOnSexistRoles Wed 01-Apr-20 10:39:04

I found the "he, Cromwell" quite exasperating which I read WH first - my top tip is Audible have a free months trial and it may be worth listening to the audio book first? I think it would draw you in, I really loved the books and the writing but am obsessed with this period anyway. Also second the DVD recommendation, loved that too. Great acting.

(I used to think the only correct way of reading was a physical book but since boredom set in I have discovered Kindles and audiobooks are great, and I was being a massive wanky twat grin)

WeBuiltCisCityOnSexistRoles Wed 01-Apr-20 10:40:03

Actually maybe I am still a twat as the thought of reading the books out of order and doing history backward makes me feel funny wink

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