Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

This book has opened a door to a new obsession for me: English history. Though this is a novel, it made me look at history with new eyes and be interested in the lives of all those who were its main characters. 

Before I read Wolf Hall I thought Cromwell was basically a villain, an unscrupulous, selfish man that advised the King to get what was in Cromwell’s best interest, not necessarily England’s or even the King’s.  He was the one to blame for the execution of Thomas More and all the bloody deeds Henry VIII carried out in order to get what he wanted. But after reading this book, I was once again reminded that nothing is black and white and that Cromwell was a human being, not a villain from a Disney movie. Mantel portrays him as someone who is indeed manipulative, very smart and opportunistic, but with a sensitive side, the human side, which can also show mercy, generosity and even courage. The same happens with Thomas More, according to Mantel’s point of view he is not the impeccable saint and martyr everyone thinks him to be, he is, just like Cromwell, a flawed man, with virtues and a dark side. It was a refreshing experience to read about them in a complex and complete way.

Thomas Cromwell

I’m not going into specifics about the plot of the book because we all know about Henry’s reign and the successes and failures in Cromwell’s life. The important thing here is the perspective under which we are able to see the protagonists of this complicated period of time, which is an entirely new experience because thanks to Hilary Mantel’s detailed work, they are now colorful human beings, not just dry lines in a history book.

Henry VIII
As I read the novel, all those familiar names and stories came alive before my eyes and made me really think and reflect about the time, and how everything that took place back then has had an impact on us. Events that took place back then changed life for us now and it is an exciting thing to be able to sink into that world with the help of Mantel’s imagination (based on her extensive research and work, this is not one of those books that mixes up the dates and events and changes the outcome of things, it is the imaginative storytelling of what actually happened, she is filling in the voids of the intimate lives and characteristics of everyone involved in these events).

Since I finished reading Wolf Hall I have read two history books about the Tudors: Tudors (The History of England Vol. 2) by Peter Ackroyd and The Wives of Henry the Eighth and the Parts they played in History by Martin Andrew Sharp Hume. I am really interested in reading more about this famous dynasty and I want to focus now a little bit more on Elizabeth I, because it is the perfect context reading for my Shakespeare project. 

Anne Boleyn
I have already ordered Wolf Hall's sequel called Bring Up the Bodies and I can’t wait to read it. Wolf Hall has been a very important book in my reading experience this year because it has set the tone for what I want to read the rest of the year. I want to focus on the parts of history I love and on the context of Shakespeare’s life and works. This second-half of 2013 is going to be very Elizabethan. 

I strongly recommend to the history buffs out there to read Wolf Hall, I’m pretty sure you are going to love it.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Quick Update about my progress with Wolf Hall

I was surprised when the copy of Wolf Hall I ordered from Amazon arrived in just ten days. Usually it takes about a month to get here, so I was really happy. I have almost finished reading it and I can't wait to start with Bring Up the Bodies. I'm totally in love Hilary Mantel. I have always been interested in English history, especially this time period, but now I'm obsessed.

Thomas Cromwell appears under a different light and he comes to life and guides us through this complicated world of Tudor England. I have decided to read some biographies of the most prominent characters of this time, I obviously want to read a biography of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, but also of Thomas More, Thomas Wolsey, Catherine of Aragon, Jane Seymour and of course, Thomas Cromwell. I also want to know a little more about The Princes in the Tower and the War of the Roses. 

I will write my complete review of Wolf Hall once I have finished the book, but I wanted to let you know how excited I am about it. 

Me sorprendí cuando la copia de Wolf Hall que pedí de Amazon llegó en solo diez días. Fue genial porque normalmente toma casi un mes en llegar hasta aquí. Ya casi he terminado de leerlo y no puedo esperar para comenzar con Bring Up the Bodies. Me encanta Hilary Mantel. Siempre me ha interesado la historia inglesa, especialmente este periodo, pero ahora estoy obsesionada.

Thomas Cromwell aparece desde una perspectiva distinta y cobra vida y nos guía a través de este complicado mundo que es Inglaterra de los Tudor. He decidido que voy a leer algunas biografías sobre los personajes más importantes de esta época;  obviamente quiero leer una biografía sobre Enrique VIII y Ana Bolena, pero también sobre Tomas Moro, Thomas Wolsey, Catalina de Aragón, Jane Seymour y por supuesto, de Thomas Cromwell. También quiero saber un poco más sobre los Príncipes en la Torre y la Guerra de las Rosas.

Escribiré mi reseña completa una vez que termine de leer el libro, pero quería compartir con ustedes mi entusiasmo.

Friday, July 5, 2013

About what I 've been doing in June

I can't believe it has been more than a month since I last wrote something here. I've missed terribly this space but work got really crazy and I couldn't find the time to write my reviews. I actually finished a couple of books (there is always time to read but not always write, I'm afraid). 

I reread The Great Gatsby at the beginning of June. I went to see the movie and it made me want to delve into the roaring twenties again. By the way, what did you think of the movie? I thought it had some flaws here and there but it was a good adaptation overall, I especially liked Di Caprio's performance, he was perfect as Gatsby. I'm still not sure about Carey Mulligan as Daisy, though...

Anyway, I read The Great Gatsby for the first time a couple of years ago and I liked it. This second time I loved it. I really admired the beautifully crafted sentences and all the emotion they conveyed. It is such a tragic story, isn't it?

The second book I read was The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim, a book Lucy @Therapy Through Tolstoy recommended to soothe oneself when things are somewhat chaotic around us. I loved it, I really did. It was the perfect read for me at the moment and it did have a soothing effect. I read it before going to bed so I would dream about spending a summer in Italy, surrounded by flowers and the sea, doing only what I wanted to do and resting, which is a luxury I don't get often. Besides that, I thought it was beautifully written and every character was appealing and interesting. 

I started reading The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins, but it was during a time I was having problems concentrating and I completely forgot about it. I have to go back to it soon because it is a really good book.

I have to tell you that I have become quite obsessed with Agatha Christie's Poirot, the British television series with David Suchet as the main character. I'm obsessed with its entire style, the air, the Britishness of it, if  you will. The same happened with the other series, the one with Mrs. Marple. I love them both. I think is time to reread some Agatha Christie. I inherited a great collection of her books from my grandmother, who was also obsessed with her stories.

And last but not least, I finally ordered Wolf Hall from Amazon. I really can't wait to read it, I hate that it takes a whole month to get here to Lima. That's what I'll be reading in August and I will also take part of the Austen in August event held by Roof Beam Reader.

In the meantime, I have to go back to My Shakespeare Project, I kind of left it aside for a while but I want to get back to The Tempest as soon as possible. And I'm also reading The Custom of the Country, by Edith Wharton, which I'm really enjoying.

That has been my June. I promise I won't disappear again for a whole month.