I’ve finally started Wolf Hall, as various readers have been urging me to do for some years now, and I’m as gripped by it as I expected to be. I’ve come down with a bad cold, so I won’t try to say anything clever about it, I’ll just quote the last paragraph of the first chapter (“Across the Narrow Sea, 1500”). Thomas Cromwell, not yet fifteen, is fleeing his native Putney to escape his terrifyingly brutal father, crossing from Dover to Calais; Kat is his (older, married) sister:
The weather is cold but the sea is flat. Kat has given him a holy medal to wear. He has slung it around his neck with a cord. It makes a chill against the skin of his throat. He unloops it. He touches it with his lips, for luck. He drops it; it whispers into the water. He will remember his first sight of the open sea: a gray wrinkled vastness, like the residue of a dream.
A passage like that is all it takes to make me happy to follow wherever its author wants to take me.
Incidentally, if anyone’s wondering what I’m reading to my wife these days (I realized on the first page that Wolf Hall was not suitable bedtime reading), it’s Barchester Towers. We’re both enjoying it greatly, so we’ll probably be occupied with Trollope for quite some time to come.