Monday, 7 July 2014

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

I'm a big historical fiction fan so when my mum gave me Wolf Hall to read I was really excited. As a history student I am obviously in love with learning about history but sometimes people think because of this I don't like historical fiction due to the inaccuracies but this is definitely not the case! It is fiction after all, I do not expect a true account of events.

I particularly love the Tudors therefore this book was just screaming read me. I'd say I have quite a lot of knowledge of the events within this book; I have learnt in detail about Henry VIII's first and second marriages and the rise and fall of Thomas Cromwell. (The rise of Cromwell is focused upon in Wolf Hall and his fall in Mantel's second book Bring up the Bodies)

Photo taken from Goodreads

To begin with I had a really difficult time reading this book because of Mantel's use of 'he' every few sentences. At first I just couldn't grip who she was talking about; was it different people each time or was 'he' consistently the same person? After way too many pages than I'd like to admit, I finally realised 'he' was always Cromwell. This helped me a lot to actually understand the book but it still aggravated me so much! 

As for the plot it does follow real events well; Henry VIII is married to Katherine of Aragon and she only manages to produce a female and becomes too old to conceive any more children so Henry must get rid. The story follows Wolsey's attempts to get Henry an annulment and then how Cromwell achieves this. Obviously it isn't that simple but that's what it is all based on. After this, Henry's marriage with Anne Boleyn. The thing is, it is all through Cromwell's viewpoint and we follow his life from being a teenage boy with family problems to his rise to Henry's side. I really enjoyed seeing all the events from Cromwell's eyes, someone who can often be overlooked. 

This book is around 650 pages and unfortunately for me, I only really liked the last 200 or so pages. I forced myself through a lot of this book, particularly at the beginning. I can't really pinpoint what it was I disliked so much. I just couldn't get my head around what was happening but maybe that is because there was seemingly nothing happening for at least the first half of the book or maybe because of the sheer amount of characters within the book making it difficult to keep track of who was who and what house they were from. 

I did like the way Cromwell was portrayed through the book, often seen as a man without much emotion and only really showing emotion when he lost some of his family and when alone when he thought about his deceased family. I could really imagine the way Cromwell acted in the book, being very sly and sharp but taking no interest in women when the women were obviously 'flirting' with him. I did really enjoy how he was drawn to Jane Seymour, a woman who seemed like a mystery to him. One thing I did like is the way Mantel portrayed her characters as I've just mentioned with Cromwell. I also really enjoyed her portrayal of Anne Boleyn as it felt like that's exactly how I thought her to be but Mantel had put it on paper in such subtle ways at times. 

One aspect I did not like was the title of the book. 'Wolf Hall' refers to the household of the Seymour family. The family were hardly mentioned within the story other than an affair and Cromwell's fancy for Jane. I was left wondering about the reason for the title until the very last sentence and that really got on my nerves. The book had little to do with the Seymour family and I like for a book to have a better meaning for its title. 

Overall, this was a difficult read which I took a while to get through but once I (finally) got to the last 200 (ish) pages, I seemed to really get into the story and got through it much easier. I felt that if the whole book was as good as the final third then I would have absolutely loved it. This negativity however, will not dissuade me from reading her follow up book Bring up the Bodies which I hope to read in the near future. 

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart Review (Spoilers)

I recently read We Were Liars because I had heard so many people talking about the book, all seeming to have loved the book and raving about the shocking ending. As a way to promote the book everyone promoted it by lying about what it was about (due to the title of the book) as an advertising campaign so I didn't have much to go on in terms of the plot and the blurb gave nothing away either.

  Photo taken from Goodreads

I felt this book would help me get out of my funk I've had at the moment with reading. Lately, I've been taking a long time to get through books and it has really made it difficult for me to pick up my next book. I decided a Young Adult book would be just the thing to inspire me and remind me of my love for reading as well as being a quick and easy read. The book didn't disappoint me in this sense; I found it so easy to read and within a day I had read it all.

Once I started reading the book, I wasn't sure if it would be something I would enjoy. A book about rich people and their problems with being rich. Eh no. But I couldn't just base my opinion on the first few pages. As I read on I found the characters weren't that relatable and well the whole story wasn't relatable at all; particularly because I'm not rich and well the whole story wasn't likely to be relatable to anyone unless you've gone through something very similar...(unlikely). The family issues aren't something I've experienced such as family rivalries or a granddad who can not accept people of a different race, culture or religion or issues over money. I haven't experienced a father who left me and my mum. I definitely haven't had the type of 'relationship' like that of Cadence and Gat.

As for the ending, this shocking ending everyone was so excited and amazed by... I personally felt it was so obvious (not the event.. the 'accident') but the results of the event (the deaths). I feel like the author did not even try to hide the fact that there were characters who were dead in the book who Cadence carried on thinking were alive. E. Lockhart gave so many hints in her writing that the three characters were dead that I just do not know how anyone could have missed it. Honestly, the ending was screaming at me throughout my read. The only surprising thing is how their deaths occurred and well of course there had to be a little bit of mystery somewhere.

The title and the whole 'Liars' concept. I just didn't like that the group of four children/teenagers were referred to as the liars. It was only revealed near the end why they were called the liars even though they were called this all the way through the book. I didn't think it was a great name for the group and well I just didn't get it. As for the title.. Well it is a very intriguing title and it makes the book seem very mysterious which I think is what the author was trying to do and I do like the title however it doesn't really portray the book at all.. but what does that matter!

E. Lockhart has a very different type of writing style to many other authors and I suppose it can be a little strange and if you do not like it you just can not even carry on reading the book. As for me, I really did not mind it but I do not really see what she is achieving with this kind of sentence structure... Some of her sentences did put me off a little such as:

'My full name is Cadence Sinclair Eastman. 
I suffer migraines. I do not suffer fools.
I like a twist of meaning.
I endure'

Unfortunately this particular part I picked out was the ending of the book and well I just did not like this at all!

Although I've been very negative, I still enjoyed this book as a light, quick and easy read. I even cried near the end of the book (however that does not really mean much as I cry way too easily at a lot of things!). It was such an easy book to read and it was easy to follow. Unlike a fair few books I've read recently I did not get confused nor did I need a break from the book because it was just too much. I think that I would have had a better experience with this book if I started with a much more open mind without knowing there was going to be a big surprise because I think that is why I guessed what was happening and nothing was really a shock to me. E. Lockhart still managed to pull me in to the story and I was desperate to carry on reading!