Maybe you aren’t interested in British history and don’t know Thomas Cromwell from Oliver Cromwell. Maybe you are afraid the books are too long and you will lose steam and want to read something else. Maybe you feel like you’ve read too much Philippa Gregory or you watched all of The Tudors on Showtime, and you simply can’t hear another thing about Anne Boleyn. To all this I say phooey, don’t let these fears get in your way. Be brave! Just start reading it (well, technically, start with Wolf Hall, if you haven’t read that). Because if you skip these books it means you won’t get to meet one of the most compelling characters in modern fiction: Thomas Cromwell, Minister of Everything (according to Mantel), loyal, shrewd, witty, sexy, dangerous, resourceful, patient, and wise. And you will miss Mantel’s brilliant writing, writing that can make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. As an example, here is Cromwell’s advice to his nephew about how to get the best of one’s opponent:
Look, he says: once you have exhausted the process of negotiation and compromise, once you have fixed on the destruction of an enemy, that destruction must be swift and it must be perfect. Before you even glance in his direction, you should have his name on a warrant, the ports blocked, his wife and friends bought, his heir under your protection, his money in your strong room and his dog running to your whistle. Before he wakes in the morning, you should have the axe in your hand.
Okay that just gives me chills. This is the best book I've read all year.
(Book 31, 2012)