Monday, December 21, 2009

Wolf Hall bu Hilary Mantel

Winner of the Man Booker prize, Wolf Hall, is a gem of a novel. The reader is positioned behind the eyes of Thomas Cromwell in the 1520’s as he battles for Henry VIII in his resolve to divorce Catherine and marry Anne Boleyn. The character Cromwell as drawn by Mantel is smart, witty, shows moments of kindness and humanity and is intuitive in the reading of the motivations of the nobility and the king. Born in humble and brutal circumstances to a blacksmith, his intelligence is self made and rises above everyone around him. Above all he is faithful servant first to Cardinal Wolsey and then Henry VIII.

What is most interesting is the portrayal of Sir Thomas More as the reversal of the sainted movie hero in A Man for all Seasons. . In the book he is flawed, nasty, narcissistic and a fanatical torturer of heretics. More is his rigidness to his idealistic spirituality contrasts with Cromwell’s worldly adaptation to the political environment of Tudor England.

Court politics abound along with the political conniving of Rome, the clerics, and the royalty of France and Spain. This is a lively emotional novel with Anne Boleyn, Catherine, Mary Tudor, and Jane Seymour starring in vivid roles.

In an NPR interview Hilary Mantel is questioned why she champions villains in her novel. If a historical figure has been given bad press armed with a sense of justice she is drawn into a re-examination of his life. She feels she does not have to redeem the character of Cromwell the facts will redeem him.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The English American by Alison Larkin

As an Anglophile, I guess my most deep, dark fantasy (no, NOT that kind) is that I will find out that I was switched at birth…and that my real parents are British! Trust me…this is not an insult to my American parents. They would be MORE than happy to trade me to an unsuspecting couple across the pond. But, alas, my fantasy is just that…fiction. Well, in this novel, the first by stand-up comedienne/actress Alison Larkin, the main character, Pippa, is raised by British adoptive parents in England but finds out that her biological parents are truly American. This immediately makes sense to Pippa, since she’s always considered herself something of an American-phile but most importantly, she is NOTHING like most the British people around her. This information propels Pippa on a quest to find her true identity and the reasons for all of her non-British idiosyncrasies. Larkin, herself, is a biological American and adoptive Brit, so the story resonates very true. Larkin’s writing style is sharp and witty and Pippa is a truly engaging and highly enjoyable character. We want her to be happy…whether in America or England. For me, I will just keep searching for that one day when I find my true parents…and I’m able to go home where I belong...England! Sorry mom and dad.