This is the third post in my series reviewing books that have been adapted for television. Last week’s post is here. You can find all the posts in this series, and my previous series about books adapted for movies, under the category “there’s a book for that.”
I was only a tiny bit *sarcasm* excited about the premiere of Wolf Hall on PBS this spring. Damian Lewis has long been a favorite of ours, and we couldn’t wait to see him as England’s Henry VIII. Mark Rylance, who played Thomas Cromwell, I’d never heard of but I love British period drama and had high expectations for the show. And because it was based on a book, I took to the task of reading it during and after the series aired.
With both the show and the book, I have a lot of mixed feelings.
I felt like I needed a prerequisite British history class before watching the television version, and when I discovered the book had a list of characters in it, I was able to follow along better as I watched. Overall, I enjoyed the PBS series. The actors were inspiring, the drama was engaging, and I felt smarter having watched it.
The book took me about six weeks to read, and at one point, I had to return it to the library because I had gone over the limit of times I could renew it. It was confusing, at times, because the author, Hilary Mantel, uses a sort of omniscient point of view that is rare in literature these days. She almost always refers to Cromwell as “he” even if she has introduced another male character, so I had to train myself to remember that “he” meant Cromwell and not the other named character. Once I adjusted to that, my comprehension increased.
And though I’m not opposed to a lengthy book, this one is more than 500 pages and at times I felt it was dragging. And just about the time I was going to give up on it, there would be an insightful line or piece of dialogue, like a buried gem, and all that work of reading up to that point would feel worth it so I’d keep going. I don’t usually consider reading hard work but reading Wolf Hall wore me out sometimes.
Because the TV series covered the second book, Bring Up the Bodies, I’m interested in reading that, as well, but after finishing Wolf Hall, I just needed a break.
I am not sorry I read and watched this series. It was different from other books and television on my list right now, and both have made me more interested in Tudor England, which is a successful outcome for any book or television series based on historical or current events.
It’s not a breeze by any means, but Wolf Hall is worth the work.
Next in the series: A.D. The Bible Continues (NBC); the book of Acts.