Open letter to Hilary Mantel: Please pause your occasional Guardian articles. We want to read everything you write about Kate Middleton and Margaret Thatcher, but first: get the Mirror and the Light finished.
That isn't much of a letter, it is more of an open postcard, but as Wolf Hall points out: don't ask, don't get.
The Kindle edition of Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies: The Stage Adaptation is good reading for die-hard fans or for anyone wondering if they can not sit through the six hours Wolf Hall on Broadway play. The
book starts off with in-depth character notes for the actors, and Oh Those Notes!
The character notes give a different perspective on the way Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies develop. Mantel notes that Cromwell's "particular distinction is this: you are a big-picture man who also sees and takes care of every detail." Mantel's Cromwell reminds one of Vladimir Putin, another statesman of humble beginnings who rose to great heights, getting rich along the way. His attention to detail is legendary, and he is aware of the daily struggles of Russians as well as the goals of ambitious conglomerates.
On April 29, 2007, Carl M. Kutter, Jr. described Vladimir Putin in "Putin and Me" for the Tampa Bay Times. "I learned he had an amazing intellect and memory...He is quiet and perceptive, listens and doesn't
talk a lot. He is precise and detail-oriented. If he tells you he will meet you at 8:02, he will be there at 8:01 and a half." Doesn't this sound like Cromwell?
At any rate, the character notes are a joy to read, and embedded in them are Mirror and the Light notes. Just a taste:
Thomas Cromwell: "You are the man with the slow resting heartbeat, the
calmest person in any room" (That phrase explains the slow heartbeat of the BBC/PBS Wolf Hall television mini-series, which — yawn — is a boring bit of breadcrumbs while waiting for the third book in the Wolf
Thomas Wolsey: [Y]our route is paved with gold...even dead, you spook your opponents.
Thomas More: [Y]ou want the warmth of family life. (There is so much Hilary Mantel gets wrong about Thomas More, but his dedication to his family and his "whimsicality" are spot-on.) [Cromwell] doesn't
explain himself. Neither do you.
Henry VIII: [A]n understudy who will play the part much better than the original cast member. (And she writes this in the play adaptation notes! Hilary Mantel is a master.] But you need Cromwell as a
Anne Boleyn's character notes include a compelling argument for hyperthyroidism, Katherine is further affirmed in her destiny to (let's all say it together) be the true queen of England.
Christophe is confirmed as a work of fiction with a historical base. Interestingly, the play notes suggest Cromwell chose Norris and the other gentlemen conspirators not for the thin vengeance of Wolsey, but because they are marcher lords on important borders who interfere with his plans.
Note: the little Mirror and the Light spoilers begin here.
Stephen Gardiner, who Mark Gatiss turns into one of the highlights of the Wolf Hall tv show, is given a suggestion of what will happen in The Mirror and the Light, "When you finally make common cause with the Duke of Norfolk, his other great enemy, you will be able to destroy him." Aha. An alliance, as Dwight Shrute would say. Norfolk and Gardiner form an alliance in book three. Thomas Howard will be "triumphant" when Cromwell falls, which surprises me. I thought Cromwell was growing on Uncle Norfolk.
Rafe and Richard will split the Master Secretary position in 1539, when Cromwell is "staggering under the burden of work".
And: Mirror and the Light SPOILER ALERT: "At Cromwell's fall, you cannot save him...you carry his last letter to Henry. Read it, Henry." (I am not saying more. Just get this book!)
Thomas Wyatt will be the last person Cromwell speaks to. "He takes your hand and begs you to stop crying." Mantel overdoes her praise for Wyatt's poetry. Seriously? The man who memorized the New
Testament and reads in multiple languages is going to be impressed by Thomas Wyatt's verses? Whatever.
Here is the most specific hint from the character notes, and it relates to Gregory, who in the book is even stupider than Charles Brandon, but in reality was supposedly well-educated and charming.
"In the third Cromwell novel, you will say to your father, 'You know everything. You do everything. You are everything. What's left for me?"
There are more character notes I am leaving out, because really you need to read this. I will review the play script soon, but know that the words are witty and the first scene has more dialogue than the entire Wolf Hall mini-series.
Ok, just a little bit.
Wyatt: [Cromwell] won't beat me, will he?
Cromwell: [I] might.
Wyatt: I am in your debt.
Wolsey: And that's another thing. You're always in debt.
After reading the character notes and the play, I have to wonder if
there will be a fourth book. It seems like Hilary Mantel an unrequited crush on Rafe Sadler that is stretching across history. I hope it ends up stretching into another book. But first, we need The
Mirror and the Light, which should come out in 2015, since it was due in 2011, but will likely appear in 2016.
Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies Adaptation for the Broadway Play is written by Hilary Mantel and Mike Poulton. It is published by Picador. (February 24, 2015). ASIN: B00JI13J46. ISBN: 1250064171.
Ally Sharp is a teacher, writer and editor, and technology trainer.