Tag Archives: Book review

Weekend Cooking: Book Review – Delicious by Ruth Reichl



Title: Delicious by Ruth Reichl
Source: Library copy
Format: audiobook
Publisher: Random House, 2014
ISBN: 9781400069620

Billie Breslin is a girl with a magical palate and a flair for cooking. This skill, however, goes unused as Billie moves from Santa Barbara to New York to work for the famed food magazine, Delicious. After a year at the magazine, the owner decides to fold the magazine and fire all of its employees except for one. Billie remains as the sole employee to ensure the Delicious Guarantee that all the printed recipes satisfy their customers. This requires a lot of phone calls and research. In the now abandoned mansion, Billie finally gains access to the library. A secret room that has been locked and sealed for decades. After researching a particular recipe, Billie stumbled upon a series of letters from the famed James Beard and a young girl named Lulu living in Indiana. Soon, Billie realizes that each letter holds a clue as to where the next letter would be filed in the library’s archives. Putting together the clues, Billie learns not only about Lulu’s life during World War II, but she gains some valuable insight into her own life as well.

The narration by Julia Whelan was purely mesmerizing. The story, despite some flaws, eye-rolling moments and predictability, was well-written and well executed. The characters had a respectable depth and differentiation. I’m so used to supporting characters blending into each other, that is was refreshing to read a book where each side character stood apart. I’m not quite sure if I can credit that to the author or to the narrator though. Whelan’s impression and different voices were superb.

The story did have some flaws. The whole ugly duckling into a beautiful swan scene with Billie was some over-the-top and unnecessary. A girl who never put any effort or thought into how she looked, ate bad take-out Chinese food each night and never exercised ends up a body of a model and a hidden flair for putting outfits together. I also didn’t understand why someone with a deep-rooted avoidance of cooking, to the point of it inducing panic attacks, would want to work at a food magazine where cooking takes places around the clock. The storyline with her sister was predictable from the first email as was the eventual love story.

All that aside, I really did enjoy the story. I LOVED the library scavenger hunt. It was so clever the librarian, Birdie, hid the letters and the clues that Billie had to look for to find the next letter. I loved reading about Lulu’s childhood with her insecurities and uncertainties, all during World War II. Reichl definitely did her research and presented a very unique and personal take on the war from a small-town outlook. Reichl is known as a food writer, and it’s clearly evident how skilled she is when she wrote about the kitchens, the cooking and the food. I was craving Italian food non-stop when listening to this book. It’s definitely a good choice for a foodie.

Weekend Cooking hosted by www.BethFishReads.comWeekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog’s home page.


The post: Weekend Cooking – Book Review: Delicious by Ruth Reichl appeared first on The Novel World.

Book Review: Thirty Million Words by Dana Suskind, MD

Thirty Million Words: Building a Child's BrainTitle: Thirty Million Words: Building a Child’s Brain. Tune In, Talk More, Take Turns by Dana Suskind MD
Source: Library copy
Publisher: Dutton, 2015
ISBN: 9780525954873
Genre: Early Literacy

Find this book at your local library

Dr. Suskind’s involvement with early childhood education and literacy comes from a rather unique perspective. Dr. Suskind is a pediatric cochlear implant surgeon, giving children the gift of sound and hearing. It was during the post-op and follow-ups with her young patients that she began noticing peculiarities and shocking differences in language acquisition, intelligence and emotional development. Her observations led her down the vast rabbit-hole of research, study and data regarding early childhood brain development. The most notable study on this field is the Hart & Risley 30 Million Word Gap study conducted in the 1980’s. Through meticulous data collection, Hart and Risley stumbled upon a wide gap between children from low-income families and children from high-income families. Financial disparities aside, it was found that by the time a child is ready to enter Kindergarten, a child from a low-income family will have heard 30 million few words than a child from a high-income family. 30,000,000. That is a whopping gap when it comes to setting the educational foundations of our nation’s children. Studies have shown that by the time a child is 3 years old, 80% of their brain has developed. By the time a child is 6, 95% of their will have been developed. The very early years, the zero to 3, are monumentally important for a child’s future academic and personal success. But since preschool doesn’t normally start for children under they turn 3, and the Kindergarten starting age is around 5, there is large number of children that fall under the educational radar.

Enter Dr. Suskind. With a bevy of data, science and facts at her side, she develops the Thirty Million Words Initiative to help bridge the gap and provide every child a fair chance at success in their lives. It’s very compelling for new parents who are not aware of the power of talking to their children. Suskind breaks down her Initiative into three basic activities for adults:

3TsTune In by paying attention to what your child is communicating to you.
Talk More with your child using descriptive words to build his vocabulary.
Take Turns by encouraging your child to respond to your words and actions.  (courtesy of http://thirtymillionwords.org/)

I really did enjoy Suskind’s book, but all while reading it, I felt like something was lacking. She spent a great portion of the beginning talk about the research that she conducted, which was great. But then, when she got to the actual 3 T’s (or 3 C’s in Spanish) the chapters were short and didn’t really provide very many tips. The main points of the book can be summed up as: Talk to your kids. Read, Sing, Play. Engage with your children. I think her ideas and research would have been better suited as a long article rather than an entire book. I do love her bibliography and it has given me a huge list of articles and books to read as early childhood literacy has been my primary focus as a librarian during the last few years. Suskind’s program works as a workshop for parents. It is promoted as a curriculum that will help parents harness their strengths when interacting with their child. It teachers parents how to expand on ideas, how to talk to their children, how to observe what their child is doing and to build on those experiences. For the most part, this is a Chicago based initiative, and I’m curious as to their results of the program.

This is a topic that hits close to home as I see and work with a number of children across the socio-economic range. I try to instill a sense of confidence and pride in parents that come to the library. My library system has taken part of the 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten initiative and we have sign-ups in massive numbers at the library and at outreach events. Parents care about their children and they want them to succeed. It’s just that so few parents know that the first 3 years are really the most important when it comes to creating a scaffolding for the future. This is a good book for anyone wanting to get their feet wet in the data of early literacy. There are so many excellent resources out there. I really feel as if there is a new emerging focus on the Zero to 3 age-range right now, and I’m excited to be a part of it.

The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman by Denis Thériault

The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman

The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman by Denis Thériault
Source: Library Copy
Publisher: Hesperus Nova, 2014
ISBN: 9781843915362, 108 pages

Bilodo is, as the title suggests, a lonely postman living in Montreal. He’s an introverted, quiet man who delivers mail by day, returning to his lonely and empty apartment at night. Despite the monotony of his life, he’s found a way to break the cycle. He pockets personal letters and steams open the envelope in his kitchen at night, reading the contents. The letters do eventually find their way to their intended recipients, albeit a few days late. It is during one of these intercepted letters where Bilodo first comes across Ségolène’s letters to Gaston. Their letters, an exchange of haikus, excites Bilodo as he wedges himself into their world as an invisible interloper. During one of his delivery rounds, he witnesses a horrific accident, where Gaston is struck by a car on his way to deliver a letter to Ségolène. From here, Bilodo’s world takes an unexpected twist as he finds himself that much closer to Ségolène.

This short novella is quite peculiar, as the title states. The postman, Bilodo is a creeper who steals personal letters to steam open and read at night after his shift. The book is a tragic love story with elements of fantasy. It’s more psychological than anything although we don’t really get into Bilodo’s head. I wish the story was told from his point of view rather than a 3rd person narrator. I’m not sure if we’re supposed to feel sympathy for him or see his downfall as a warning. It’s a bit shallow on that end. It could have been a better novella with a bit more depth and introspection into Bilodo’s fragmented sense of sense and his deteriorating sense of life. Maybe this was lost in the translation? There were also a lot of little details that were left unanswered. How does he afford to keep two apartments with one postman’s salary? How does he suddenly learn to write haikus just by putting on a kimono? How does he go two years without anyone noticing their mail being tampered with? I have more questions. The fantasy elements were too subtle, I couldn’t suspend reality to accept its overlay throughout the novella.

The Postman: Il PostinoAt times, it felt like the book was more about poetry than about people. In those instances, I was reminded of another novella about a postman. Il Postino, The Postman. Set in Italy, this is the story of a humble and sweet postman who learns how to write love poetry from the famed Pablo Neruda to win the admiration of a beautiful girl in his village. This is one of my favorite movies and one of my favorite books. The love story, the poetry and the tragic ending are heart-breaking and so genuine. If you want a book about a postman and poetry with a love angle, I’d opt for the latter book. If you want a book about a creepy 27-year-old who spies on his neighborhood, go for the first book.

Book Revew: The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham

The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham
Source: My Copy
Find this book at your local library

This book has been sitting on my bookshelf for over a year now. I don’t remember exactly why I grabbed it other than knowing that the author is someone well-known and a person that well-read readers read. I was not disappointed.

From the introduction to the very first page of the book, I was mesmerized by Maugham’s use of language to paint such a stoic, dramatic and engaging perspective of life. I didn’t really know what to expect when I started reading this book, I had absolutely no idea what it was about when I began reading.

The book begins with a short biography about Kitty, who is born and bred for a fine marriage. When that fails, her mother marries her off to the next available suitor, Mr. Walter Fane. Shortly after marriage, Kitty accompanies her husband to China. His work as a bacteriologist leads him away from their home in England. Once in China, Kitty is bored and unhappy with her marriage and engages in an affair with colonial officer Charles Townsend. Up until this point, I had Anna Karenina similarities running through my head and I found Kitty to be incredibly vapid and annoying. That is until Walter found out about the affair and gave Kitty two options. 1) Divorce (on the condition that she marry Charles in 2 weeks time) or 2) accompany him to cholera-ridden town of Mei-tan-fu. This marks the turning point for Kitty, when Charles undoubtedly lets her down. Whisked away to the dangerous city, Kitty befriends the French nuns at the local church and begins to work with them, helping the young children in the village.

In its simplest description, it’s a tale of redemption for Kitty. She commits a sin, denies the sin, accepts the sin and tries to atone for it. Watching the slow evolution of Kitty took me by surprise. I didn’t fully realize how much she had changed until the end. Even then, she still hadn’t changed that much, at least not when reintroduced to Charles Townsend towards the end of the book. The novel had its racist moments particularly in the descriptions of the Chinese citizens. The book was written in the 1924, not that it’s an excuse, but apparently it was accepted commentary back then. Maugham didn’t really shed anyone in a favorable light except maybe the Mother Superior. Kitty, Charles, Walter, everyone had their faults and insecurities. Even in her search for redemption, I still found Kitty slightly unlikable.

The book is very short, but covers so much ground. Racism, colonialism, adultery, isolation, filial strains, friendship, unhappiness, etc. The list goes on. Quite a few times I forgot that the book was written nearly 90 years ago, so many of the issues brought up in the book are contemporary issues of today. I think that’s what makes this book a classic and timeless in its message.

© 2015 by Nari of The Novel World. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @TheNovelWorld This was originally posted on The Novel World on 8/10/2015

The French Beauty Solution

The French Beauty Solution: Time-Tested…The French Beauty Solution by Mathilde Thomas
Source: Publisher via LibraryThing Early Reviewers
Publisher: Gotham Books
Publication Date: July 14th, 2015

Owner of Claudalie beauty products and spas, author Mathilde Thomas reveals the secret and not-so-secret beauty habits of French women. I found much of her information to be useful, although almost all of it has been revealed in not one, not two, but all three of the Mireille Guiliano French Women Don’t Get Fat/Facelifts books. What I like about the French Beauty Solution is that Thomas neatly and concisely sums everything up without being pretentious or acting like the methods practiced in the US are abhorrent. She really cares about her industry and the quality of the products that she produces. The tone is very friendly and encouraging. She goes out of her way to highlight the various aspects of American life that Frenchwomen are actually jealous of. I’m not quite sure how sincere these sentiments are, but after reading so many America-bashing books, it was a nice change to pace to read something complimentary about us. At some points, the book felt like a commercial for Thomas’ company Claudalie, but it didn’t take away from the message of the book. And really, how could she discuss beauty and beauty products without discussing her company?

The French beauty solution is broken down into 5 parts:

  • Part One: Beauty the French way (what to eat, French make-up traditions)
  • Parts 2 & 3 Skincare (sunblock and water)
  • Part 4: Hair & Makeup (conditioner over shampoo, don’t wash hair daily to keep the natural oils from drying out, use hardly any makeup)
  •  Grape Cleanse (cleanses aren’t my thing, so I skipped this chapter).

As an owner of the Claudalie beauty products and day spas, Thomas is well versed in the science behind beauty products and does a good job of listing the must-have and don’t-need beauty products. She also includes a LOT of DIY beauty creams, masks, etc that have very simple ingredients found in the pantry. I’m eager to try a few of those once I find the free time. I found this book to be a really great resource for someone who is as cosmetically-lazy as me. I guess I already practice the French way regarding make-up since I usually don’t wear anything other than sunblock and some blush. I also like red wine. Wine is another element that she absolutely insists must be in one’s daily routine. I can’t argue there. I just wish I had a better nose for distinguishing mediocre wines from stellar wines. She also highly encourages purchasing quality products, like organic food for the DIY skincare products. It may be more expensive, but she does bring up the good point of not putting something full of pesticides directly onto your skin. She actively encourages making your own products and buying what makes you happy. I read this book in one go, but I think its really meant to be a book to be referred back to for information as the need arises.

© 2015 by Nari of The Novel World. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @TheNovelWorld This was originally posted on The Novel World on 7/6/2015

Book Review: The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The…

Title: The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo
Source: Library copy
Publisher: Ten Speed Press
ISBN: 9781607747307

This book has been flying off the shelves at my library system. It’s hard to find a copy in stock and when you place you hold, you’re in the triple digits on a wait list. My first introduction to this book was through a YouTube video highlighting the magical powers of neatly folded clothes in the dresser drawer to maximize space. I should note that the clothes are folded and stacked vertically, so that you can see each and every shirt. They aren’t stacked on top of each other, hiding the ones at the bottom.

After a long, long, long wait, I finally got my hands on a copy of this book and it’s really one of the best books on home organization and decluttering methodologies. Like the author, I too spent a great deal of my life, from early childhood, decluttering, donating and constantly reshuffling objects around my home in an effort to create a tidy space. To be honest, I never really realized why it wasn’t working until I came across this book. What I like best about the KonMari method, as the author calls it, is that unlike magazine and other books, she doesn’t structure her advice around specific layouts. Most tips you find show visuals of people’s homes, but those spaces and sizes are not always appropriate for my approach. I like that she left the home size vague. She talked more about the objects than space. Much of the book was spent on decluttering. Her method is time intensive but sound. You do it all at once. You break it down into categories, but then you declutter everything through that category. Start with clothes. Grab every single piece of clothing item in the house from every room possible. Then sort. If it brings you joy, keep it. If it doesn’t, toss it. It’s a very simple approach. But the bottom line is to keep only objects that bring you joy. My difficulty is with getting rid of paper and certain clothes. Some clothes I paid too much for and only wore a few times, or clothes that are now too big or too small. It feels like a waste of money to get rid of them, but all they do is gather dust and take up space in my closet. My other big obstacle is paperwork. This is where I just shuffle them around from box to box from room to room. I wish I had better knowledge of how to properly dispose of documents since I don’t have ready access to a shredder. But I did proceed with a big purge while reading this book. Its hard not to!

But I cheated. I didn’t really follow her method of working through individual categories. I just went from room to room based on my time availability in the evenings. Doing a major purge like this is so much more different from what I had been doing before. I always have a box in the bedroom for Goodwill donations. I’m always tossing stuff in there. But the box sits in my room for a month or two at a time. While the box fills up, the space I had cleared is filled with something new. Therefore, I was never really decreasing my cluttering. Just moving it around. Going through a major purse as book recommended created some major white spaces in my closets and in my rooms. In fact, it had me nervous that I had lost something important even though I couldn’t really remember what was there in the first place.

She also had a small section on storage. I like that she doesn’t recommend or push for any particular storage device besides that of a basic shoe box. Personally, I’ve gotten very obsessed with these photo boxes from Michael’s over the last five years. I have in almost every cabinet or every shelf in my kitchen and pantry. They are wonderful for storing like items; sauces, pastas, etc. But storage is the absolute last step. The first is to get rid of everything unwanted or unneeded, then find a way to make-do with what is left behind.

In the end, I’ve decreased my extraneous paperwork by more than half, trimmed my wardrobe and updated certain elements to give myself a happier space. There’s less clutter in general around the house, although still more than what I want. I just haven’t had the time to sit down for an intensive purge and organization as the book recommends. You’d really need to devote an entire weekend to get through all the different categories. Although if you work from least sentimental to the really sentimental objects, you’ll have honed in on your criteria for what to keep and what to toss.

There really is a lot of great advice in this tiny little book. The author’s approach is friendly and encouraging but also firm. I could feel her in the room with me when I deciding what to get rid of and what to keep. This book is really more about the psychology of the process of tidying than anything else. It’s a wonderful resource for anyone looking for a way to make their lives a little more streamlined.

© 2015 by Nari of The Novel World. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @TheNovelWorld

Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel

Bring Up the Bodies (Thomas Cromwell, #2)

Title: Bring Up the Bodies
Author: Hilary Mantel
Series: Thomas Cromwell Trilogy (book 2)
Source: Library Copy
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co

Book two of the Thomas Cromwell series picks up not to long where book 1 left us. Click the link to read my review of book one, Wolf Hall. Both Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies have been the recipients of the Booker Prize the year of their publications.

By the time Bring Up the Bodies begins, Henry VIII has been rather unhappily married to Anne Boleyn. Unhappy with her, unhappy with her inability to give him a son, thus finding his eyes wandering towards the young and unassuming Jane Seymour. Book two begins and ends with the quick suspicion, trial and death of Anne Boleyn. Although it took me a good three months to finally finish this book, I enjoyed it and am still incredibly enamored with Mantel’s descriptive prose. I think the biggest draw to this book is that it’s not a romance and it’s not told through the eyes of either Boleyn or Henry VIII. I knew that Anne was sentenced to death due to treason and her suspected affairs on the side. Mantel’s second book put Anne in a more vulnerable place than Wolf Hall. In Wolf Hall, Anne was vicious, cunning and used (or rather didn’t use) her womanly wiles to find her way to king’s side as his Queen. In this book, she’s discussed and gossiped about more than directly perceived by the reader. I believe the author did that intentionally to ruffle the feathers against Anne’s case. Who was she to defend herself against horrible rumors of incest, affairs and treason against a king well-known for having an eye on a younger maiden. Many of her stalwarts and defenders went by the wayside as Cromwell interrogated everyone to find evidence against her. One can’t help but feel like these charged all trumped-up out of spite for her and just to clear a pathway for Henry’s next marriage.

Despite my lag in reading this book, I enjoyed it more than Wolf Hall. The pacing was much faster than Wolf Hall. Whereas Wolf Hall spanned almost seven years, Bring Up The Bodies quickly went through the three years of their marriage. I do wish there was more mention of the children Mary and Elizabeth, but maybe that’s for another book altogether. I didn’t realize how young Elizabeth was when her mother was executed. For some reason, I thought she was much older. I do wonder what will happen to her and how she does eventually become Queen as Henry had his marriage to Anne Boleyn annulled shortly before her death.

I’m not sure how quickly I’ll jump into book three, although as far as I know, that does not even have a publication date. I presume that it will end with Cromwell’s execution. I do wonder how he got on the wrong side of the king when he had been a running favorite for so long.

© 2015 by Nari of The Novel World. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @TheNovelWorld

Book Review: In A French Kitchen


In a French Kitchen: Tales and Traditions of Everyday Home Cooking in FranceTitle: In a French Kitchen
Author: Susan Herrmann Loomis
Source: ARC – LibraryThing Early Reviewers
Publisher: Gotham Books (Imprint of Penguin Random House)
ISBN: 9781592408863
Publication Date: June 16th, 2015

To sum it up: In a French Kitchen is like peeking through the window of a French home and seeing how they prepare their meals and manage their kitchens (of various, albeit usually small sizes). This isn’t a memoir. It isn’t a comparison to American cooking habits. It’s strictly a look at how the French manage their kitchens and includes a number of wonderful and easy to follow recipes for the reader to try at home. Loomis covers everything from how to organize the pantry (keep only the essentials) how to shop for produce on an as-needed basis rather than bulk-buying as well as discussions on cooking techniques, and the roles and importance of the primary foods such as cheese, wine and bread in a French home. Loomis weaves in lists, tips and side notes quite seamlessly throughout the book. Although I did find her Pantry Essentials List to be a bit much for a non-professional chef. Then again, she has 4 sinks in her kitchen so her frame of reference it a bit skewed for normal people. The French essentials list she has is more realistic and applicable without her personal additions.

The only parts of that book that irked me where her constant mentions at being able to access farm fresh fruits & vegetables. Literally from a farm or from a neighbor’s extravagant garden. I’m nowhere near this lucky in an urban city. But alas, it’s not about me, it’s about how the French have so much quality food within reach.

Much of the cultural aspects on food I already knew. The French don’t snack between meals, except for the 4p goûter. They buy produce almost daily due to the abundance of fresh markets, boulangeries, fromageries and chartuceries in every arrondissmont. The French can buy their meat fresh and their bread baked fresh daily. In the US, its hard to find a bakery that actually sells bread rather than cakes and pastries. Most butcher shops are in grocery stores with meat that’s been pre-sliced for who knows how long. Despite much of the information not being new to me, Loomis’ writing style was inviting and informative. It basically sums up everything I learned from a number of books and memoirs. Its a good reference source for creating a food philosophy for an aspiring foodie and chef. I’m eager to try out some of the recipes in this book. I just wish she had included a brioche recipe. I’d love to get an authentic recipe for those yummies. One new thing I learned was how much the French love sugar. Vanilla sugar makes an appearance in nearly all the dessert/pastry recipes and I have no idea how to get my hands on some in the US.

Loomis has written a number of books about her foodie experiences in France. One memoir and a few cookbooks. I read and highly enjoyed her memoir On Rue Tatin (although I neglected to review it.) She refers back to that book quite a bit in this new title, so it wouldn’t hurt to give Rue Tatin a read. 

Weekend Cooking hosted by www.BethFishReads.com

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog’s home page. For more information, see the welcome post.


 © 2015 by Nari of The Novel World. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @TheNovelWorld



Book review: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry (Gabrielle Zevin)

The Storied Life of A.J. FikryTitle: The Storied Life of AJ Fikry
Author: Gabrielle Zevin
Source: Library Copy
Publisher: Algonquin Books, 2014

Although this was published over a year ago, this is a title I’ve been seeing making the rounds on book blogs and on library carts over the past few months. It was actually this month’s book club selection for a library book club that I incidentally ended up skipping.

I fall into an odd spot with this book. My memory of the book is fonder than my thoughts were while I was reading it. This book is an ode to readers and their books. From the first page to the last, the book is filled with notions and quotes that readers will cherish, relate to and appreciate. Although those sentiments and the general story were memorable, there was still much left untouched within the story. The story begins with an awkward sell to a bookseller, A.J., from a publishing sales representative, Amelia. A.J. suffers two major losses at the start of the book. The first is his wife Nic in a tragic car accident. The second is a rare manuscript of Tamerlane, an extremely rare collection of poems by Edgar Allan Poe, said to be worth 400 thousand dollars. After returning home from an early morning job, A.J. finds something unexpected and life-changing tucked away into his store. This then starts a change in his life, taking his down different paths than what he could have ever imagined.

The characters are interesting, diverse and quite dysfunctional on many levels. Those parts of the story I liked. At times the story and the quotes were too sentimental, maudlin even.  It was very purple-prose. Much of the story was predictable and many of twists were cliché. The pacing was too choppy for me. Things just happen from leaping over years, with no transition and no depth. Everything just falls into place, no trouble or effort involved. It was a cop-out gimmick. For all the drama purported through the character’s and their descriptions, there is virtually no conflict in the book. Everything resolves neatly, everyone communicates, is empathic and sympathetic all the time. Its an ideal world of fiction. Maybe that was the author’s intent?

Book Review: Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

Wolf Hall by Hilary MantelTitle: Wolf Hall
Author: Hilary Mantel
Source: Library Copy
Publisher: Picador, 2009
Awards: 2009 Man Booker Award

Wolf Hall is soon to be aired on PBS as a highly anticipated miniseries highlight the scandals of sagas of the Tudor court as Henry VIII tries to annul his marriage to Katherine of Aragon to wed Anne Boleyn.

That is the entire premise of the first book of the Thomas Cromwell Trilogy Hilary Mantel has produced over the last six years. From reading various reviews online, this book has been met with equally vicious and loving reviews. It’s a love-it or hate-it type of book, and I fall into the love-it category. One note, any use of the pronoun “he” more often than not refers to Thomas Cromwell. This writing quirk has a bit tricky to keep up with earlier in the book when there were many men present and active in the chapters. Although once I accustomed myself to this usage, the book had a wonderfully enticing flow that seemingly transported me back to 16th Century. Although I love historical novels and Henry VIII is my favorite monarch, I have not read any historical novels set in this era. I’m glad I started with Wolf Hall. Mantel’s minute descriptions could have been boring, and dragged on. But they did not. They created wonderful visuals in my head of an impatient, intelligent and multi-layered King who wanted a male heir to the throne. While Katherine had been first married to his older brother Arthur, Henry married her upon the death of his brother. Inheriting the queen and the crown at the same time was fine and dandy, but after 20 years with only a single daughter to boast, Henry was ready to move on.

His prime confidant, Cardinal Wolsey, has already fallen out of favor with the king at the start of the book. Wolsey is Cromwell’s entryway into the royal courts and into the royal lives of King Henry, Queen Katherine and Queen-to-be Anne Boleyn. The fall of Wolsey is the rise of Cromwell. I appreciated this unique perspective on such a scandalous time of England’s history. So many of these books are written through the eyes of the royals themselves. It is nice to get an outsider’s view of the royals, although it is still such as intimate as from the Kings, queens and princesses themselves.

Mantel’s research into this era is inspiring. Her understanding of the cultural norms, fashions, religious controversies and policies is educational, and very vividly described. As I said, I felt transported back in time reading this book. It was so engrossing for me. I’ve quickly jumped into book two, Bring Up the Bodies so that I won’t be caught unawares when the mini-series starts on April 5th.

I definitely recommend this book for historical fiction readers. I’m curious to see how the adaptation of book to mini-series will pan out and if Anne Boleyn will have a meatier role in the TV production versus the book. She’s been a pretty silent character in the first book, but then again, the first book isn’t centered on her as queen.


a photo of an open book with writing in it

The book showing inventory number 282 and Gamon’s signature at the bottom© Stephen Haywood. National Trust

© 2015 by Nari of The Novel World. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @TheNovelWorld