Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Notes from Eve Abbey ~ August 2012

Two years ago, when everyone was reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, I stoutly maintained “I’m not reading that. It’s too long” and didn’t read it. But when we got the sequel - Bring Up the Bodies - I decided I should read it after all. And of course I have found it is a marvellous book set, as no doubt most of you know, set in the middle of the reign of Henry VIII. Of course, the undisputed hero is not Henry, it is Thomas Cromwell, the blacksmith’s son and protégé of Cardinal Wolsey, who rose to become Henry’s chief advisor and Earl of Essex. I was besotted with Thomas Cromwell. He Can Fix Everything! A natural intellectual and a practical visionary. In Bring Up the Bodies, he is busy organising the death of Anne Boleyn, to please Henry. A third volume is due later, when we shall no doubt see the demise of Cromwell himself. It is best if you read Wolf Hall first. Both novels are also available as audio books.

These are wonderful books. Gorgeous prose and fascinating insights. Hilary Mantel always refers to Cromwell as “he”. “He” is the subject all the time. If another “he” appears in the sentence, Mantel writes “he, Cromwell” so you are not in doubt.

The famous Civil War leader, Oliver Cromwell, is the great-great-grandson of our Thomas Cromwell’s sister, Kat. There is a very useful Tudor family tree in the front of Wolf Hall, and very informative notes and an interview with Hilary Mantel at the end.

In the background of Wolf Hall, you read about the dangers of associating with reformers, especially people like William Tyndale, the translator of the Bible into English (a task Cromwell quietly supported). You might like to look at Reform and Renewal: Thomas Cromwell and the Common Weal by G R Elton or Book of Fire: William Tyndale, Thomas More and the Bloody Birth of the English Bible by Brian Moynahan or The King James Bible: A Short History from Tyndale to Today by David Norton.

Hilary Mantel has written a number of books over the years, which have always been quite successful, but not big sellers, so it is great to see her receiving such praise for these latest compelling books. My favourite in the past was A Place of Greater Safety, which features Danton, Robespierre and Desmolin during the French Revolution. It seems she admires talented men, despite their frailties.

Here’s another suggestion for you, a book by the noted historian Alison Weir about Anne Boleyn’s sister. It is called Mary Boleyn: The Great and Infamous Whore. This is the first full-scale biography of Mary, whom Alison Weir decides was actually the luckiest of the Boleyns. There is another popular fictional story by Phillipa Gregory called The Other Boleyn Girl. Another historian, Julia Fox, wrote about Jane Boleyn, the unhappy wife of Anne Boleyn’s brother, whose testimony counted against them; this is Jane Boleyn: The Infamous Lady Rochford. The Tudors are a fruitful field, are they not?

I hope you have looked at our new website lately. New Releases are listed on the right hand side under subject headings. Once you are in a category, just click on a cover to go to the full book entry. When you click on the heading New Releases, you go back to the New Releases summary page.

The categories on the left hand side are for searches of all books in our database, not just New Releases.

Also on our home page are links to two Quick Lists – one for general titles and another for Crime. These lists only include author, title, binding and price. You can print these lists and use them as shopping lists if you like. This is especially useful for our crime aficionados.

For more information about any books I mention in this blog post, just click on the highlighted title to go straight to the book entry on Abbey’s website.

I hope you’re enjoying the new benefits of your Abbey’s Card (or Galaxy Card), which now provides an immediate 10% discount off all purchases across any of our three stores, rather than accumulating towards Reward Dollars every six months. So remember to show your card to get your immediate discount.

Keep well, Eve

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