Friday, May 25, 2012

Historical fiction and fact

I finally read Wolf Hall.  Great book.

It is very, very difficult to write historical fiction without making the central character sympathetic, I say  difficult not impossible, Cecelia Holland can do it.  Mantel makes a ruthless Cromwell sympathetic by writing how he thought about his actions, he doesn't justify himself,

The next book Bringing Up the Bodies promises to be even better. Wolf Hall ends with Anne Boleyn at the height of her power. My views on this period were shaped by the historical fiction Brief Gaudy Hour and Norah Lofts  I think I read everything Lofts ever wrote, both of these books view Anne as the victim of Henry.  He saw her, wanted her, got her, got bored and killed her and she was a "good girl".  Reality is harder to find,  she certainly wasn't a pure virgin trapped by circumstances. 

Another view from a minor character at Henry's court, a court painter, is Anne and her family as dissolute, dissipated and ambitious, which seems closer to the truth as researched and written by Alison Weir.  Henry did get bored and he did want  a son but Anne fell largely due to political manoeuvring by Cromwell and all her other enemies.  But if he had not gotten her executed, she might well have gotten him executed. Mantel will have fun with that.