How to tell a complex story with brief impressionistic scenes instead of long naturalistic chapters. In much fantasy, if the characters need to go from Point A to Point B we’ll get 200 pages of Funny Les vaches M’appellent Faut Que J’y Aille Shirt each step of the way. In Wolf Hall, if two people need to have a conversation to advance the plot, we join them in the middle of their conversation and might shift to a new scene after just a few paragraphs. It means that Wolf Hall can cover a ton of ground. If you hate hate hate non-standard writing (say, if you hated the second-person perspective in Harrow the Ninth) you might not like this. I personally think Mantel’s stylistic choice works brilliantly—it gives the book a sense of presence and immediacy while also helping the reader feel the same mystery about Cromwell as the other characters do.
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Hilary Mantel is limited by actual history so you won’t find the traditional narrative beats of fantasy. There’s not really the three-act structure of inciting incident, big twist, climax, and wrap-up. There’s no single Big Bad Guy. They’re not saving the world. Everything is a bit understated compared to the over-the-top drama of, say, A Game of Thrones. Women Funny Les vaches M’appellent Faut Que J’y Aille Shirts in comparison to most modern fantasy. That doesn’t mean she doesn’t make several of them fascinating and even powerful. But the king’s council is all men. The aristocrats’ wives are usually back at home and not at court. There certainly aren’t any female uber-assassins. And definitely no non-straight sexuality, neurodiversity, POC, etc. If you can’t get enough of Wolf Hall there’s also a 6-episode BBC miniseries that won the Golden Globe for Best Miniseries in 2015. Ok.