“Wolf Hall” Reading Notes (1)

Half way through “Wolf Hall”. In love with Mantel’s writing.

In the Paris Review article, Mantel told the interviewer that when she was a teenager, for a while, she used to compose in her head the perfect paragraph for that day’s weather. She would work on it silently all day until she got it right. Now i read “Wolf Hall” and thought back to that teenager Mantel. No kidding. She could convey so much with so little and with such precision and beauty.

A wash of sunlight lies over the river, pale as the flesh of a lemon.

Rafe’s smile flickers, the wind pulls the torch flame into a rainy blur.

Katherine: he likes to see her moving about the royal palaces, as wide as she is high, stitched into gowns so bristling with gemstones that they look as if they are designed less for beauty than to withstand blows from a sword.

He would like her to shorten her account, but he understands her need to tell it over, moment by moment, to say it out loud. It is like a package of words she is making, to hand to him: this is yours now.

He took a linen towel and gently blotted from his face the journey just passed.

…the room felt so empty it was empty even of him.

It is a wan morning, low unbroken cloud; the light, filtering sparely through glass, is the colour of tarnished pewter. How brightly coloured the king is, like the king in a new pack of cards: how small his flat blue eye.

At Austin Friars, there is little chance to be alone,…Every letter of the alphabet watches you.

The light is fading around them while he talks, and his voice, each murmur, each hesitation, trails away into the dusk.

It was snowing at dawn on the day of the raid of Lion’s Quay, but soon a wintery sun was up, scouring windowpanes and casting the panelled rooms of city houses into sharp relief, ravines of shadows and cold floods of light.

More, Tyndale, they deserve each other, these mules that pass for men.

Lord Chancellor respects neither ignorance nor innocence.

The day is too mild for a fire. The hour is too early for a candle.In lieu of burning, he tears up Tyndale’s message. Marlinspike, his ears pricked, chews a fragment of it. ‘Brother cat,’he says. ‘He ever loved the scriptures.’

Pearls of Roman laughter unfurled into the Roman night.

The sun has declined; birdsong is hushed; the scent of the herb beds rises through the open window.

Also came across this article by Mantel in the Guardian on Cardinal Wolsey.
The other king“Hilary Mantel was researching Thomas Cromwell for her new novel when she opened a biography of Cardinal Wolsey and fell in love with the haughty charmer at the ‘golden centre’ of Henry VIII’s court.“
If you don’t have patience to try out “Wolf Hall” yet, then try this short article by Mantel first.

Sometimes you buy a book, powerfully drawn to it, but then it just sits on the shelf. Maybe you flick through it, the ghost of your original purpose at your elbow, but it’s not so much rereading as re-dusting. Then one day you pick it up, take notice of the contents; your inner life realigns. This is how I came to George Cavendish’s book Thomas Wolsey, Late Cardinal, His Life and Death.

I knew whose career I would like to follow – Henry VIII’s minister Thomas Cromwell. I couldn’t resist a man who was at the heart of the most dramatic events of Henry’s reign, but appeared in fiction and drama – if he appeared at all – as a pantomime villain. What attracted me to Cromwell was that he came from nowhere. He was the son of a Putney brewer and blacksmith, a family not very poor but very obscure; how, in a stratified, hierarchal society, did he rise to be Earl of Essex?

I needed to know Wolsey to understand Cromwell. But what was Wolsey? A great scarlet beast, I thought, a pre-Reformation priest who belonged to the old world, not the fierce, striving, dislocated society I wanted to write about. I thought of him as a means to an end; I imagined I would dispose of him quickly to get to the meat of the plot. Then the day came when I opened Cavendish’s Life; the author leaned out of the text and touched my arm, keen to impart the story of the man whose astonishing career he saw at first-hand: “Truth it is, Cardinal Wolsey, sometimes Archbishop of York, was an honest poor man’s son … ”

It is fascinating to know that in such an hierarchal society as England , one could rise from nowhere like Cardinal Wolsey, or Thomas Cromwell to be “the other king” or the King’s most powerful minister.