A Dilemma

On March 10, Hilary Mantel’s new book will be released. This is the third and final book in her historical trilogy about Thomas Cromwell and I’ve been waiting for it for years. The last time I was this excited was when I waited in line for the new Star Wars movie and I think that was in the 1970s.

Thomas Cromwell has always seemed a mysterious, hidden character to me. He was the son of a butcher who rose to become the chief minister to Henry VIII , and it’s safe to say he cut a few corners along the way. He certainly made enemies, chief among them Anne Boleyn. He was responsible for her downfall, but his own downfall came not long after.

Up until reading Mantel’s first book in the series, Wolf Hall, I’d thought of Cromwell as a ruthless thug. Possibly I was influenced by this portrait of him, which does not make him look fuzzy.

But after reading Mantel’s book, I became fascinated by him. His intelligence, his ruthlessness, his ethics, his history. She brought him alive in a way I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone else do with a historical character.

So now, the third book is coming out and it’s 863 pages long. Coincidentally, it’s coming out right as I’m finishing up the novel I’m working on. In fact, that’s the very day I had in mind to send the manuscript to my agent. This seemed to me a perfect alignment of events. I would send out my manuscript and then immerse myself in the 1500s. This seemed far more emotionally healthy than frantically checking my e mail for weeks, and the fact is, whatever my agent thinks of my book, it can’t be worse than what Henry VIII thought about Cromwell.

My dilemma is that I read the first two books some years ago. Things being what they are, I’ve forgotten half of them. I would certainly get more out of this book if I reread the first two. But that means months of dedicated reading, which means I wouldn’t get to the new book until Christmas.

What would you do?


  1. Skim! That’s what you do… give the earlier books a skim (knowing you will stop and read) but there is the pretense of a rush to the new one.

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