Saturday, August 18, 2012

Wolf Hall Read-a-Long: Discussion--Week Two

First of all, I would like to apologize for posting this a day late.  I had a week crammed with work which chewed into my reading time so I didn't finish reading Part II until last night.  Ugh! I hate being behind, yet it seems I always am!

Let me just say...I am loving this book! Mantel is such an amazing writer.  I can see why she won the Man Booker Prize.  Wowza! I really am so endeared to Cromwell.  I can't help it.  I just keep wondering if he was really like the book portrays him.  He really was a marvel of a resourceful and smart man.

So, what are you thinking at this point in the book?  Here are some questions to help us organize our thoughts:

  1. Why was Cromwell so attached to Cardinal Wolsey? Was Wolsey more of a mentor or a father-figure for Cromwell? What do love and loyalty mean for Cromwell? 
  2. What is it that makes Cromwell so driven? Does his ambition stem from a desire to do good, or is it just a survival instinct based on his past? How is Cromwell both personally ambitious and yet generous and unselfish?
My thoughts:
  1. I really think that Cromwell saw Wolsey as both a mentor and a father-figure, but also with a mind to his advancement as well.  We must remember how very shrewd Cromwell is.  I'm just really loving how multifaceted he is and I believe that love and loyalty do mean a great deal to him.  I think his capacity for love and loyalty stems from his leaving the home of a cruel father and striking out into a world that embraced him more than his own father ever did.
  2. It's obvious to me by how inquisitive and resourceful he was as a child that he was driven at a very young age.  Perhaps being constantly around a ne'er do well father made him want more, but there are plenty of children who grow up in this manner and never have any ambition to do better.  I honestly think he was born that way ("Baby, you were born this way!").  As to the final part of question two, I think of his conversation with Mary Boleyn.  The entire time he was keeping in mind that what she was telling him (in regards to the King and Anne) could be of use to him and Wolsey.  Yet he expressed a genuine concern for Mary's plight and was quite willing to speak on her behalf to the Cardinal regarding a new husband.  With Cromwell, we're getting many layers.  I would have to say that he is what they call a well-rounded person.  Liking him so well is going to make reading his fate (which I already know, of course, being a Tudor history buff) that much more difficult.  And I thought watching it in "The Tudors" was hard enough (I thought James Frain played him quite well).
Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments or post a link to your blog post.

Next week's post will be at Kai's Fiction State of Mind.  I'm going to post handy links to past posts for people catching up at the top of the posts section.


Discussion questions were obtained from


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  1. I finished part Two a while back, and had to stop halfway through the book because I didn't want to read too far ahead. And then of course, Jury Duty hell and now my life will never be the same. But onwards..
    As far as Cromwell goes, I never really had a strong opinion before this book, except for perhaps an inkling that he was despised. I do know that Wolsey was despised, so I was more surprised that he was portrayed as a likable character. Everyone is certainly more humanized in the story, and I LOVE how Anne B is portrayed. Quite frankly, I am OVER the canoniziing of Anne, and the fact that Cromwell wonders if Anne will eat her ward Henry Carey had me laugh out loud. It really puts us into the mood of the era, the small insinuations the author makes, the small remarks about each character that are perhaps a bit silly but could really help portray how the actual citizens of England felt at that time.
    Better stop before I write a review.. so on to Q1.. I think Wolsey was more of a mentor, not a father figure. I think Cromwell was indeed a full grown man by the time he came into his service, and also we cannot forget the fact that Cromwell was forced to grow up mighty early.
    Q2: I think Cromwell needed to continue to prove himself perhaps for his own peace of mind, but also that he was highly intelligent and his intelligence simply could not be ignored. The fact that he was essentially a commoner and rose to such heights on his own accord proves he was a man to be reckoned with. And because he was a commoner he probably had a lot of adversity and disdain to overcome to overcome at the courts.

  2. Hello! Finally sitting down at my computer this Sunday evening. I am so enjoying reading Wolf Hall.

    1. I just don't think Cromwell views Wolsey as a mentor or father-figure. I feel Cromwell views Wolsey as a kindred spirit. Both men came from humble beginnings and rose to power by their sheer ambition and will to succeed. Each man also plays off the strengths of the other. For example, Wolsey, a man learned in law is impatient with delays. Cromwell is his man of "practical solutions". Wolsey needs something done, Cromwell is his go-to-man.
    What do love and loyalty mean for Cromwell? Love and loyalty are very important to Cromwell and how he conducts himself. He admires Wolsey's continued loyalty to Henry VIII, his refusal to speak ill of Henry, even though he has cut Wolsey. Cromwell is saddened over Wolsey's fallen state and remains with Wolsey. He expresses dismay that he didn't put some money aside for Wolsey out of Henry's reach.

    2. The struggles that Cromwell experienced as a young boy left him feeling never quite comfortable with his position, regardless of his accomplishments or earnings. And I'm sure he felt his current position somewhat precarious. Losing favor with the king meant losing everything. But, Cromwell also believed on each generation improving on the next. He loved his children. He knew the importance of education and he made sure his children and his sisters' children were educated. He also brings Rafe Sadler into his household as a small boy.

  3. Michelle, I've had The Tudors saved on my Netflix instant queque for several weeks, but I'm waiting to finish Wolf Hall before I start watching it.

  4. I saw a few episodes of The Tudors, but was turned off by the oversexed plot. Even if I am in my bedroom watching TV, there are strong chances kids are coming and going and I am not comfortable watching anything that's not PG or below period...ever.

    From what I saw, most of the actors did very well but I do not like their choice for Henry 8. That choice should have been a less sexy and less young man to make it believable for me ;)

  5. Marie, I had the same problem (oversexed plot) with The Game of Thrones.

  6. I think Cromwell sees Wolsey a bit of a father figure/mentor. Cromwell learns a lot from him, and is a trusted advisor to Wolsey. But it also gave him a reason to acquire and read the "heretical" texts that he first came in contact with on the continent.

    I think the ambition was largely for survival. To advance in the military, or his other fields, advancement gave him better chances, give him a better life than what he had growing up. It may also be for doing good, but I don't know if I was really getting that. Other than doing good for the Cardinal.

    The big thing about any cable series is they add more sex and nudity than the original inspiration had. In Game of Thrones, they took Littlefinger owning brothels and RAN with it. The Tudors they just made it where everyone was having affairs and liasons. Some of it could be believed but they got really carried away with it.

    1. I love crommwells loyalty towards Woosley, Its almost father and son like. He really was there to support Woosley when he falls from grace

    2. Really enjoying Woosley and Thomas's relationship, its very supportive almost like father and son

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