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Carissa Green Reads

I read widely from many genres. Perhaps this blog will feature fewer ratings and reviews, but I certainly intend to write about my reading life - it's the subject I most find myself wanting to talk about.

Currently reading

Chekhov Four Plays
Anton Chekhov, David Magarshack
Beyond the University Why Liberal Education Matters
Michael S Roth
First Love, Last Rites
Ian McEwan
The Gay Science: with a Prelude in Rhymes and an Appendix of Songs
Walter Kaufmann, Friedrich Nietzsche
A Kierkegaard Anthology
Robert W. Bretall

The Joy of a Big Book and a Smart Character

Wolf Hall (Thomas Cromwell, #1) - Hilary Mantel

I had a "summer weekend" in winter this weekend. Often, during the summer, I'll get a big, juicy novel and spend the weekend hanging out in the parents' RV reading straight through. No RV time in the winter, but I started Hilary Mantel's "Wolf Hall" on Friday night and except for sleepy-time, I barely put it down until Sunday afternoon. At a rate of 30-35 pages an hour, 530+ pages, it was a steady diet of reading joy.


When a book - and its sequel - win the Booker Prize and become critical darlings, one has the right to be skeptical. But for me, "Wolf Hall" was all it was cracked up to be. It's a fantastic reimagining of Tudor England through the eyes of the unlikeliest of heroes - Thomas Cromwell. 


Cromwell is usually portrayed as devious and self-serving, and Martel does not abandon that trope. But she makes him into a fascinating hero. He's a survivor and a politician in the best sense. It's refreshing to read about a hero who's super-intelligent without being an annoying know-it-all, and kind and loving to his friends without being self-sacrificing. This Cromwell is a character to like and respect. I really enjoyed living in his head for this many pages. Frankly, there aren't that many super-smart characters in fiction that you end up rooting for quite like this. 


I don't think I'll look at the intrigues of the court of Henry VIII in the same way again. Sure, most of the slippery, devious "enemy" characters are still bad guys. But the "hero" characters are also self-serving and full of their own foibles. Sir Thomas More is completely turned on his head. 


I am definitely on board for the next two novels. The second, "Bringing Up the Bodies" will come up on my reading list before this spring's PBS miniseries (another "summer weekend" out-of-season!). The third is yet to be published - but I'll be waiting.