Thursday, 7 March 2013

Wolf Hall - Hilary Mantel

I stopped posting book and album reviews generally on this blog as largely I felt they were rubbish - I'm no critic and I noticed a lot of reader traffic was to these posts, I personally felt I was doing the authors often a disservice in my reviews as I say... I'm no critic.  If I was all about driving traffic to the blog I'd only do reviews - many of them get 1000s of reads!  Often with the music stuff I'm going to wax lyrical as I'm already a fan I'm normally reviewing something I was obviously going to buy so people aren't reading an unbias review but often a fan's eulogy.

Anyway I have to mention this book.  I bought this as a result of seeing Ms Mantel receiving much critical acclaim and prizes for it and it's sequel which I daftly bought at the same time and will now I fear remain forever unopened.

Sadly though I've given up reading it less than half way through.  I just can't get into it at all - the writing style is virtually all dialogue or brief snippets underneath about the underlying politics etc. under the dialogue.  But I get so lost,  and there is no visualisation of the places etc. I feel the thing is a complete void as though I'm only listening to the dialogue in a film where at least 50% of the information about the story is lost to me.  It may present Thomas Cromwell in a completely new light but frankly I just lose the plot with almost every page turn.

So the lesson - I shouldn't believe all the awards stuff.  Probably I should avoid a book that has one an esteemed literary prize on this basis as I clearly don't get it and can't read a novel like this with the required level of intellect.

On the Wikipedia page about Wolf Hall I found this quote from a professional reviewer...

"...dreadfully badly written... Mantel just wrote and wrote and wrote. I have yet to meet anyone outside the Booker panel who managed to get to the end of this tedious tome. God forbid there might be a sequel, which I fear is on the horizon. — Susan Bassnett, in Times Higher Education[8]"

So - not just me then...  Having read that I do have a little bit of "Emperors Clothes" thinking about it. If the Booker panel did fail to read it as Susan Bassnett alleges how did it win the prize?


  1. Good question. Thanks for letting me know. I hate it when I buy a book because of a review by some hoity toity group only to put it down because it's awful, or poorly written, or just plain boring. It makes me angry that I've wasted the money and it makes me feel like I'm missing something!

    So nice you found the other review. That would make me feel much better. ;-)


  2. I do sometimes wonder what criteria are used to judge books for prizes. Who really read something that's so challenging it becomes hard work to keep up or understand? I do sometimes wonder, like you, if there is an Emperor's New Clothes approach to things, and we're fooled into thinking we're "supposed" to like something because it's deemed as clever or original or whatever. But surely a good book is one that can transport effortlessly into its world, is written well enough to make me feel it, see it and live it, and then think about it afterwards. Never 'a tedious tome'!

  3. reached here via DIY guitars on Facebook and was looking around. Nice blog :-) Just wanted to say I loved both Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies. And I'm not, heaven forbid, a Booker Prize judge!


    1. Welcome Mr P. Well there is proof of the old adage "beauty is in the eye of the beholder "!

  4. Truly badly written and not worth even attempting to read is my assessment of Wolf Hall and I suspect she won the prize because the readers decided it was so difficult it had to be clever and perhaps she really was a James Joyce etc. etc.

    God it was just so awful it makes the book judges look like fools.