I like to be engrossed—that feeling of being lost in your reading and immune to the real world. Lately I’ve been living in the world of Henry VIII. I never cared much about British history and I don’t much care about Kate and the Prince, but I’ve become engrossed in Henry’s world thanks to Hillary Mantel’s books, Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies (both available at CCPL).
These books are turning me into an anglophile. I’m fascinated by the politics. What will Henry do to end his marriage to his latest wife? And how will Thomas Cromwell, who has to be the greatest “administrative assistant” in the history of the world, manage it all? The relationships between all the characters are real and complex. The period of history comes alive as told from the Cromwells perspective. I’ve learned about the 15th century world with its conflicts between the established church and the royal rulers and what life at court was really like. What would it have been like not to be able to read the Bible in English, a controversial issue of the day? The language and images are so resonant and beautiful that I’m listening to the works now for the second time and I’ve reserved the books for further study.
And that’s still not enough to quench my passion. I’m watching the Showtime series, The Tudors (also available on DVD at the library) to get an even better sense of the costumes and settings. King Henry, played by Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, is virile and young and compares to the historical images of Henry VIII like young Elvis compares to old Elvis. (Rhys-Myers actually played Elvis in a TV movie!) The accent is on the romance and the drama, but it helps to add definition to the characters I’ve been introduced to in the books.
The library also has some fascinating nonfiction that lays out the family tree and puts the Tudors’ reign in a larger perspective. A quick search in our catalog of “Henry VIII” brings up a great selection of books, CD Books and DVDs about Henry and his many wives. So my winter’s reading and viewing is all arranged! And I’ll be waiting for Mantel’s third book in the trilogy, The Mirror and the Light, to be published. Maybe it’s time to plan a trip to England in the spring!
What period of history do you enjoy reading about most?