Phew – just finished Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. Winner of the 2009 Man Booker Prize.
Page by page she draws you inexorably into the ‘factional’ story of Thomas Cromwell and the Tudor court of King Henry VIII. She creates a compelling, hugely attractive and even heroic character weaving his astonishingly successful way through the lethal pitfalls of 16th C society; from low born son of a drunken blacksmith to Henry’s right hand man.
The author’s greatest achievement is her brilliant re-creation of late Medieval England – [I don’t think I’d like to go there on holidays] – on the cusp of Reformation. Wycliffe is a shadowy presence throughout. A menacing presence of violence simmers just under the surface of everyday life. People routinely die horribly for their beliefs or for political expediency or both.
Apparently she’s writing a sequel. I hope so, but so successful has she been in imagining her tough, resourceful, wise, resilient and yet compassionate Cromwell that I really don’t know if I want to read about his fall and the end of such an ‘alive life’.
If I feel this for a fictional character, how much more for people I know and love? Death indeed is the last enemy to be destroyed (1 Cor 15:26).