16-02-13

Hilary and Henry and Thomas

Rare are the books that I read twice, and even rarer are the books that I reread with a goal, to deepen my understanding of them and at the same moment to increase my joy of reading. With Hilary Mantel's "Wolf Hall" and its sequel "Bring up the Bodies" I rediscovered the great fun of having a book that actually gets riper and better with every reading.

I am a historian myself and historical fiction is for me sometimes a difficult thing: I love it when it's good and accurate and I hate it when it's not. One of my professors in my first university year once told us that all historical writing is necessarily subjective, as we will never know 100% of what happened in the past, be it non-fiction and an attempt to get as close to the truth as possible, or fiction, where we add fantasy to re-create an atmosphere long gone. Two years later I studied History of Food and discovered the impact of changes in everyday life on the big lines of history, and understood how hard it is to grasp the meaning of what really happened. It is precisely here that I find in this two books an enormous added value to the so often told history of Henry VIII and his wives.

Next to a fantastic attempt to grasp the personality of that well-known renaissance-prince Henry, the books are absolutely marvellous when they depict the intellectual atmosfere of the period, when merchants and bankers spread the ideas of Luther, and the author accurately and imaginatively describes how these ideas evolve and move around. The painting of the main character, Thomas Cromwell, is though necessarily fictional when it talks about its youth, so beautifully built up, that even when i write this i feel the urge to reread the books once again and get to know him even better.

These are marvellously written, very interesting and exciting books. They are not easy though, and they demand a high degree of concentration, but this makes them great for rereading as you find layer after layer of meaning. I am looking extremely forward to the release of the next one, when I will start by rereading vol.1 and 2 before attacking it, just like I did with vol.2.

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