For obvious reasons we were rooting for Toni Sue Byatt to take the Man Booker this year, but we became huge huge fans of eventual winner Hilary Mantel within five pages of picking up Beyond Black when that came out several years ago and which we strongly urged our colleagues to read. And urged. And urged. Not one of the ungrateful wretches even tried. Not even a little fake pass at it to suck up when we were in eyeshot. When we think of the hours we have devoted to the likes of Richard Powers just to keep peace in the family…
So we are now in the middle of Mantel’s Wolf Hall which beat out the Byatt and we can’t argue with the selection even though we had a good time ambling through The Children’s Book. We’re having a better time in English Renaissance Wolf Hall which has a lot more red meat than the Edwardian Children’s Book although we must point out that C. J. Sansom has done such a good job with the TudorTerror in his Matthew Shardlake stories that there are few surprises for us in the scenery.
The newsworthy twist to Wolf Hall is the favorable but not flattering depiction of Thos. Cromwell. Most of us on this side of the Atlantic got our Cromwell facts from A Man For All Seasons, Robert Bolt’s hagiography of Thomas More where Cromwell is on the wrong side. That play and movie now seem to represent the peak of More’s public image, you will be glad to know. The long knives are out for the Lord Chancellor. Hilary Mantel pretty much flays him alive. Deservedly. If you’re still clinging to St. Tom (patron saint of politicians no less) you really need to see Christopher Hitchens’s side of the recent Intelligence2 debate. Yikes!