I am generally reluctant to try historical fiction in part because I don’t really I understand the genre. (I don’t understand genre, in general.) I mean, aren’t all novels set in a certain period of time? What makes some historical and others not (contemporary?)? Also, when historical fiction is centered on real historical people, I fear confusion. Has this author done her homework? Am I going to confuse the real Cromwell with Mantel’s version of him? Then, there’s the problem that the suspense has been removed. I mean, I knew what was going to happen.
So I fought this book for a while, first the prospect of reading it, then the notion of enjoying it. Occasionally, as I was slogging through some sections, there would be this burst of beautiful writing that would make me smile in appreciation. And then there was stage 2. I was actually enjoying the book. Mantel’s writing, together with the depth of her characterizations, allowed me to concentrate more on the moment than on the plot. But still, I assured myself, there was no way I was going to read the sequel, Bring Up the Bodies. Then I got to the end and Mantel worked her final bit of magic. I won’t read it right away, but I will read the next one.
I don’t want to see any movie or stage versions. I fear the story being reduced to soap opera and the loss of some of the minor characters I cherished. I enjoyed the understated motif of stagecraft that runs throughout the novel, the memory theatre in particular (http://www2.idehist.uu.se/distans/ilmh/Ren/soc-memory-camillo.htm).