Wolf Hall

One would think that panels of judges are folks with a serious outlook on life. They may be with or without glasses, but all of them with formidable stares. So, to be entrusted with a task as serious as deciding the best book of the year is no mean task.

I do not think that a senior Assistant Commissioner of Police would burst a balloon under your chair and laugh heartily over your dilemma for example.  In the same vein, I expected an excellent book to win the Booker every year. It is not as if there is a dearth of books.

Yet, I cannot help thinking that the 2010 panel of judges for the Booker Prize were a fun-loving lot. They seemed to think that having had to read Wolf Hall themselves, why not inflict the same on the rest of the world? The judges idea of a practical joke. I sound harsh, but there are very few books I have left mid way through. I love reading and any author who has spent many hours coming up with something readable, I laud them. Pretty broad-minded what? This broad minded view, however, I was forced to shelve with Wolf Hall.

At first, I thought I was not concentrating and rapped myself hard on the knuckles and sat down to study. I studiously went back to get the characters names and their relationship to one another. One time, I was thoroughly piqued to find that the character, who had hitherto been mentioned somewhere along with the many Annes and Liz-es, was a member of the domestic staff in either the protagonist’s sister’s family or the king’s lover’s family, and had no relevance to the plot whatsoever.

I suppose some folks call it style – as for me, I call it bad writing. I look to fiction with a view to enjoying my time. If, while doing so, I also pick up a thing or two about History and the Medieval Ages, I am all for it. But 65% of the book later, if I am still struggling to find the plot, I question the existence of one.

Sometimes I would be bounding along thinking Thomas is saying something and he also did this, only to realise that midway through the sentence, the “he” had shifted to the Cardinal, who due to unforeseen circumstances (beyond the control of the writer) was unable to actually be among those physically present. A fair bit of dialogue happens in one’s imagination – the protaganist’s imagination I mean.

I am all for imagination, and actually thought I had to come up with the rest of the story by myself. After the first chapter, the book failed to grip and once it had lost its hold on me, it continued on its path, and I on my own, only to find myself drooling on the story.

There is one sequel I will not be reading.

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