Why Can’t I Finish Wolf Hall?

Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall seems like the perfect text for a scholar of Early Modern Literature:  it’s set in the awkward period between Henry VIII’s infatuation with Anne Boleyn (while married to Catherine of Aragon) and his marriage to her.  The narrative is through the consciousness of Thomas Cromwell and intends to show how Cromwell went from being a Catholic advisor to the Archbishop of Canterbury to serving as Henry VIII’s trusted advisor as he decided to break from the Catholic church and become head of the English Protestant (Anglican) church.  I don’t know if the book achieves this goal because I can’t get past page 180ish.  Why?  I’m uncertain, but my gut reaction is that Cromwell is shown doing all sorts of incongruous things–killing people, sleeping with whores, not to mention changing faiths–without any indication of his motivation.  I’m guessing that our struggle with understanding his motivation is supposed to drive us through the book, but I simply find it frustrating.  I’d be interested to hear what others think.  The book won the Man Booker prize, and I’m curious to know why.

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