I started Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel, last week. It's not a quick read, but it is compelling and Mantel has a lovely way with words and some interesting ideas.
I particularly liked this part in which Thomas Cromwell, the protagonist, is musing over Thomas More's contribution to the charges being brought against Cardinal Wolsey.
Thomas More, the Lord Chancellor, has put his signature first on all the articles against Wolsey. They say one strange allegation has been added at his behest. The cardinal is accused of whispering in the king's ear and breathing into his face; since the cardinal has the French pox, he intended to infect our monarch.
When he [Cromwell] hears this he thinks, imagine living inside the Lord Chancellor's head. Imagine writing down such a charge and taking it to the printer, and circulating it though the court and through the realm, putting it out there to where people will believe anything; putting it out there, to the shepherds on the hills, to Tyndale's plowboy, to the beggar on the roads and the patient beast in its byre or stall; out there to the bitter winter winds, and to the weak early sun, and the snowdrops in the London gardens.
I love this passage because it examplifies why I think Wolf Hall is such a wonderful novel and is garnering so much acclaim. In these two paragraphs, my regard for Cromwell is cemented because how can I not love a man who tries to imagine in such poetic and yet concrete terms what another is thinking when he knowingly slanders a colleague? This passage expresses indirectly and so powerfully Cromwell's scorn for More, and it reinforces my faith that despite Cromwell's rough edges, he is the honorable man in the story, the man whose thoughts are worth knowing. With this passage, Mantel secures my regard for her protagonist, and she does it without singing a word in his defense. It's all done with smoke and mirrors...this is a really a wonderfully written novel.
James Frain as Thomas Cromwell in The Tudors.