Monday, December 8, 2014


The author Hillary Mantel burst forth on the literary scene with the historical fiction blockbuster Wolf Hall. This bestselling book won literary prizes and is soon to be seen on PBS’s Masterpiece Theatre. The now Dame Mantel was not an overnight sensation. Born in England, she graduated from British colleges, worked as a clerk in a department store and lived in Botswana and Saudi Arabia. She wrote a variety of well-received historical novels, none bringing great attention until Wolf Hall. The Monrovia Public Library owns some of her earlier and all her recent works. 

Brilliantly written, historically accurate but not overwhelmed by facts, Wolf Hall is the epic story of Henry VIII during the time he wanted to divorce his first wife Catherine and  marry Anne Boleyn. Highlighting Henry’s closest adviser Thomas Cromwell, the book relates the rise of Cromwell from a blacksmith’s son to a political insider. It captures the dysfunctional Tudor family in all its royal glory, and the scheming and intrigue that went on at the royal court. Consider looking at the family tree as you begin the novel, as keeping track of all the relations can be a daunting task.  

Intended as a trilogy, the story continues with Bring Up the Bodies. Anne Boleyn has been married to Henry for 3 years and is the mother to Elizabeth, but she has not delivered a male heir and she is suspected of adultery. Cromwell has the task of getting rid of the well-connected Anne so Henry can marry his next bride, Jane Seymour. Once again the focus is on the advisor as he schemes to give Henry, and himself, what they want. The third in the trilogy is coming soon.

In the meantime Dame Mantel has written a new best seller, a collection of short stories called The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher. A bit highbrow, this work is not as approachable as her novels. The title story is about the imagined murder of the former prime minister of England. Fans of literary fiction might enjoy this latest book while many readers will enjoy Mantel’s historic fiction.

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