Weekend Links - Hilary Mantel Edition

Sunday, May 13, 2012


I thought I'd start collecting some of the interesting articles I find throughout the week on blogs and on Twitter. Enjoy!

I will listen to anything from the BBC but this is a particularly appropriate program for this week: Why is Tudor fiction so popular?

What happens to your Kindle books when you die? Maybe I should be more worried about the closetful of physical books that will have to be given away!

The History Girls have the best interview with Hilary Mantel that I've seen so far.

This isn't historical fiction-related but this essay by Hilary Mantel is beautifully written.

And finally, a breathtakingly bad blog post at the Telegraph that condescendingly tells historical fiction readers that they enjoy "trash." It's gotten quite the discussion going down in the comments section.

Best Day Ever

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Today has been a strange day in little ways. Other than managing to be HuffingtonPost Books' 40,000th follower on Twitter (thanks for the shout out!), I also received a book that I suspect will be one of my all-time favorites. There's something strange about knowing that ahead of time.

I certainly didn't suspect it when I picked up Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall in February 2010. I went through a feverish Tudor phase from about age 10-16. Name a Tudor book, I've read it. The fever began with Susan Kay's incomparable Legacy - a novel about Elizabeth I. It's no understatement to say that I was led to my love of books, history, historical fiction and a desire to write because of that book (not a bad find in a small town library in Vermont!).

Eventually, I stopped reading about Tudor England. I had reached a point where every angle and perspective had been covered and I could predict every little twist and turn in the story. I moved on to other reading interests, more or less abandoned historical fiction, went to college, went to grad school and then started reading historical fiction again which led to this blog. About a year later, I started seeing Wolf Hall everywhere. I initially dismissed it as just another Tudor novel.

Then Snowpocalypse hit. The entire Eastern Seaboard (including my home city of Washington, DC shut down). My office was closed for an unprecedented five straight days. I look back on these days with a lot of fondness now even though I was running desperately short on coffee. I managed to read several books and start a big writing project. The local library even opened for one of those days and (of course) it's the first spot I visited. Desperate for new reading material, I snagged Wolf Hall. Back home, I started reading and didn't stop. I read the 600+ pages in one day.

Now maybe, I was mesmerized by Wolf Hall because it was one of the few times in my adult life I've been able to read a book in one day. But I've returned numerous times to look at how Mantel managed such a feet. I've looked at her sentences and the way she opens scenes, the details of life in England and the way her dialogue burns character into the reader's mind. I'm pretty sure the snow day was just a happy accident. It was the first time I felt as though I knew what it must have felt like to live in Tudor England.

I've had Bring Up the Bodies pre-ordered for 3 months now. It's the first time I've ever ordered a brand-new novel in hardcover. I'm more of a used-bookstore/get on the library-waiting list kind of girl. Not forBodies. The package arrived at my desk, I ripped it open and heard the satisfying creak as the book opened for the first time.

Will it be Wolf Hall? Will it be Legacy? No. But here's hoping I talk about Bring up the Bodies in the same way. Two more hours and then I'll be on the train home. I'll open up the book for the first time and read.......