England was always, the cardinal says, a miserable country, home to an outcast and abandoned people, who are working slowly toward their deliverance, and who are visited by God with special tribulations. If England lies under God’s curse, or some evil spell, it has seemed for a time that the spell has been broken, by the golden king and his golden cardinal. But those golden years are over, and this winter the sea will freeze; the people who see it will remember it all their lives. Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel
Historical novels take the stick figures of history and paint them in vivid colors, fill in their flesh, blood, and bone, and imbue them with rich emotion. Wolf Hall is a masterful example of the historical novel at its best, taking the figure of Thomas Cromwell, a common man who rises to a place of great favor with King Henry VIII, and viewing that tempestuous period through his eyes and from his vantage point.
Mantel’s portrayal of England and it’s national conscience during those times is equally vivid – there’s a bleak and icy coldness that permeates the atmosphere of this novel, from the intrigues at court to the political and religious oppression and corruption. The prevalence of torture and death does nothing to ease the misery that oozes from the pores of these people. And if there have been golden years, it seems clear that Henry’s denouncement of the Roman church and his attempt to usurp power that rightly belongs to God, does indeed bring them to a crashing end.
Now tell me, have you read any Striking Sentences this week?