Reading the reviews of Wolf Hall, I thought Thomas More would be presented as a villain, but I don't think that was the case. Mantel presents More as her Thomas Cromwell would have seen him. She said in an interview that,
"I gradually realized that the confrontation with Thomas More wasn’t just a political crisis for Cromwell, it must have been an emotional crisis as well."
Mantel has two More motifs running through the book:
This is, surely, how history has patched More together. His story is too often patched from the reverential stories from his family with exaggerated evils created to quiet the shock of his execution. Cromwell would surely have felt he could see flaws in More that others could not see. Mantel says it nicely, "In real life, there is something fraying about their host, a suspicion of unraveling weave."
More is characterized nicely in some parts. He is, "a star in another firmament" and Cromwell "can hardly bear it, to think of More sitting in the dark." Even Cromwell admits:
One thing about More, he's never idled for an hour, he's passed his life reading, writing, talking toward what he believes is the good of the Christian commonwealth.
I first read Wolf Hall on my Kindle in November, 2009, and I have read it multiple times since then.
This article was originally posted on the Thomas More Book Club in March 2010.
Ally Sharp is a teacher, writer and editor, and technology trainer.