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Günter Grass

I see that Günter Grass has died.

I haven’t actually read any of his novels – he’s one of those novelists whom I meant to get round to sometime. The closest I have come was when I watched the film that was made of his novel The Tin Drum. The film was excellent.

There was a stooshie when he revealed he had been a member of the Waffen SS – mostly because he had managed to keep the fact to himself for 60 years and in the interim had been outspoken about Germany’s post-war attitude to the Nazis. I doubt, though, many German seventeen year-olds would have resisted being called up in 1944. In any case his war record can have had no bearing whatsoever on his abilities as a writer. As a person perhaps; but not as an author. (There were doubtless many more in Germany, Austria and various parts of Eastern Europe who may have had more reason to keep theirs quiet.)

The Nobel Committee saw fit to award him its prize in literature in 1999. That puts him in good company.

Günter Grass: 16/10/1927 – 13/4/2015. So it goes.

The Affair in Arcady by James Wellard

Hutchinson, 1959, 336 p.

The Affair in Arcady cover

Clive Marshall, a not very successful author, has been hired to write the history of The Tylers of Tyler County: An Epic of American Enterprise, coming over from his home in Italy, leaving his wife to her nascent acting career, to do so. One night at work on this project in the family’s pile in Arcady, Illinois, he is disturbed by a young woman tapping at the window. When she enters he discovers she is the daughter of the house, Abbie. Abbie is wayward, used to getting her own way, except for when she chose a boyfriend her folks found unsuitable. That affair having been ended she continues to choose wrongly. Marshall’s first impressions of her are not favourable but neither that nor the fact that he is married stops him having sex with her the next night. Thereafter Marshall is inexorably drawn into Abbie’s orbit. Put as baldly as this it might not seem that this is a particularly worthwhile novel but Wellard’s writing is discursive and acute, his character drawing excellent. Outstanding here is Abbie’s stepfather, Earl Borman, in all his venality, his sureness of his world view, his sense of entitlement. When Marshall returns to Italy for a brief spell his wife, Lydia, is also revealed in all her frivolity. Marshall himself is portrayed as weak and easily led.

The situation gives Wellard plenty rein to criticise the society and culture he is describing. “I’ve enough evidence to prove that the Tylers were a clan of greedy, ruthless, unprincipled land and money-grubbers. So, as you asked me before, what do I intend to do about it? Answer: write them up as great Americans.” “The only true thing that was ever said about all of them was that all great men are bad.” “‘Yessir. Nobody wants to cheer a losing team.’ Marshall looked at him, aware that he had just uttered a profound maxim of American philosophy. … He had never even thought of football as a game…. This set of values… made him so … different from other national types, providing an incontrovertible argument against internationalism and the brotherhood of man.”

The words “negress”, “negro”, “darkies” and the other (now highly unacceptable) “n” word appear early and at first I thought their presence was simply a marker of the time the novel was written but they are important since racial prejudice and animus against miscegenation are germane to the plot. Oddly we had what I assume is an expletive deleted in the phrase “you –– bastard” though the last word there is considered by many to be unmentionable.

The title – and the novel – is of course about more than the relationship between Abbie and Marshall. As Marshall’s research into the family’s papers proceeds the dark secrets of the Tylers’ recent past are revealed. In Abbie’s fractured search for meaning in life, and her justified resentment towards her family, lie the seeds of despair.

The Affair in Arcady is an excellent book. I am mystified that it and Wellard himself do not appear on the Fantastic Fiction website. There is an extensive list of his books on LibraryThing though.

Pedant’s corner:- Youasked for it, ciaous (ciaos,) hadn’t of been – but this was in direct speech – if is is (if it is,) damwell (damn well,) ofthe (of the,) should of – again in direct speech, interne.

Traveller of the Century by Andrés Neuman

Pushkin Press 2013, 592 p. Translated from the Spanish El viajero del siglo by Nick Caistor and Lorenza García.

 Traveller of the Century cover

Traveller of the Century is the first novel by Argentinian born though long time Spanish resident Andrés Neuman to be translated into English.

Its protagonist, Hans, arrives by coach in the city of Wandernburg, somewhere on the borders of Prussia and Saxony, fully intending not to stay long. The city is strange, though. Apart from the constant changing between which of the two countries it belongs to (the setting is post-Napoleonic, there is a lot of moaning by the characters about the baleful influence of Metternich) its streets and buildings seem to realign themselves every night. So once again I find myself reading about a weird city (The City and the City, Pfitz) or altered borders (Europe in Autumn.) Neuman does not overplay this aspect of his novel however. The shifting topography is mere background, the city as it is. Hans finds himself lingering in Wandernburg (it is a difficult city to shake off) and becomes drawn into the lives of its characters; especially the literary salon held every Friday by Sophie Gottlieb and her father. The best friend he makes in the city is a lowly organ-grinder (who sadly does not have a monkey but rather a dog) living in a cave two miles outside the city. And there is a masked man who is attacking women at night.

Barring one two-line exchange on page 569 the dialogue isn’t marked out from the rest of the text in any way – neither by quotation marks nor by dashes – but rather is embedded within it (characters talking across or interrupting each other is rendered in parentheses, as are any actions of the speaker.) This idiosyncrasy does take some getting used to and, coupled with the lengthy discussions of philosophy, politics, economics, the merits or otherwise of Walter Scott’s novels, poetry etc in the scenes taking place in the salon, is one of the reasons it took me a while to settle to the book. Once in its stride however, the thrust of the story won me over. The love affair which we always know is inevitable between Hans and Sophie – despite her engagement to the wealthy Rudi von Wilderhaus – has a slow build up but gives Neuman ample scope to deal with two of the eternal literary concerns, love and sex. Sophie is a determined woman, opinionated in the salon, standing up to both father and fiancé in the matter of assisting Hans in his works of translation (a great excuse for the two to meet in Hans’s room at the inn,) and, a fact naturally kept concealed from father and fiancé but of course impossible to hide from Hans, sexually experienced to boot, an attribute which Hans rather appreciates.

There is a hint of mystery to Hans beyond his status as a traveller. He has books that look old but bear recent publication dates. It is only one of the many intriguing aspects of the book that his origins remain an enigma to the end.

In the salon we hear of Adam Smith that his “theories are capable of enriching a state and impoverishing its workers,” a fact proved many times over in the past two centuries, also – in a comment emblematic of the author’s referential approach – “These Argentinians are very restless, they are everywhere at the moment. They have a penchant for Europe and seem to speak several languages. They talk incessantly about their own country but never stay there.” Of Hans and his friend Álvaro we are told, “They spoke in a manner two men rarely succeeded in doing – without interrupting or competing with one another.” The novel might have been designed to test the statement that, “There are two types of people. Those who always leave and those who always stay put,” while Hans says to Sophie, “I feel as if time has stopped, but at the same time I’m aware of how fast it is going. Is that what being in love is?”

Not that it’s all serious stuff. We encounter a pair of semi-comical police officers, Lieutenants Gluck and Gluck (father and son,) tasked with finding the attacker. And what are we to make of the names thrown in as if at random of those incidental characters, Rummenigge, Klinsman and Voeller? I doubt it is laziness on Neumann’s part, as if he has only a limited knowledge of German names and merely utilised those he had heard elsewhere. Is it a subtly sardonic allusion, a joke at the expense of any highbrow readers, who will eagerly latch on to the salon discussions but perhaps miss this reference to German former footballers – and strikers at that?

Whatever my misgivings to begin with, Traveller of the Century is a novel not frightened of demanding effort from its readers but worth that effort just the same, one of those works that will stay with me for a long time.

Pleasingly, the translation seemed to be into British English but there were still a few entrants to Pedant’s Corner:- “And, yes, be able” (to be able,) there’s no need be so formal, the only thing he kept up all evening were…. (was,) neither of us like to waste time (likes,) from her there to her navel (from there to her navel,) laid for lay, do you take me for fool (a fool,) medieval, running towards to them, knelt down next to straw pallet.
I looked up Braille and water closet in case of anachronism. The first just about fits; however the second term wasn’t used in English till 1870. But the book is set in Germany and written in Spanish, perhaps the description was in earlier use in those two languages.

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell

Sceptre, 2011, 564 p.

The Thousand Autumns of Jocab de Zoet cover

This novel has been described in a quote on the back cover as a tour de force and I must say it is likely to remain in my mind for a long time. It will certainly figure in my best of the year even if this is still only February.

The Jacob de Zoet of the title is a Dutchman who, in order to prove his worthiness to marry his sweetheart Anna, is out to make his fortune in the Dutch trading mission on the island of Dejima off Nagasaki at the turn of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (CE) – during the Tokugawa Shogunate, when all other European contacts were banned, as was travel abroad for Japanese. The present tense narration is in the third person, save for a single chapter in first person from the point of view of a slave in the Dutch trading post. Woven into the tale is the history of relations between Japan and the outside world up to that point. While the novel is roughly based on incidents that took place on Dejima around that time I would hazard that the part of the plot involving the Lord Abbot Enomoto is not.

The first part of the novel outlines de Zoet’s endeavours in exposing the various corruptions of previous Chiefs of the post and his interactions with Japanese translators. Reading about the difficulties of translation between Japanese and Dutch in a third language – English – is a bit surreal. The very first chapter, however, introduces us to Aibagawa Orito, the disfigured daughter of a samurai, who is learning to be a midwife under the tutelage of the Dutch doctor at Dejima. Her path and de Zoet’s cross and, despite feelings of guilt at betraying Anna, Jacob becomes attracted to Orito. His hopes in affairs of the heart and commerce are both soon dashed. In the second section, where Aibagawa Orito has been taken away to the religious institution run by the Lord Abbot, the novel takes a sudden left turn as this middle part of the book deals solely with her plight and the efforts of her Japanese admirer, the interpreter, Ogawa Uzaemon, to free her. The third and concluding part of the novel returns us to Dejima as well as on to the British frigate which arrives to attempt to take advantage of the fall of the Netherlands to Napoleon’s armies.

The book is unusual in that it contains a number of illustrations, mostly anatomical but also two townscapes – well, one townscape and a shrinescape – plus some of “de Zoet’s” sketches of Origo.

While reading I was struck by certain parallels with Science Fiction. There is a type of SF story which also has an isolated trading/diplomatic post many months (or years) travel from home, dealing with and trying to understand a different culture. In Origo’s captivity we have different SF parallels but they are even more marked, as the Sheranui Shrine is a closed society with its own rules and a menace at its heart.

The characters, especially the Japanese, impress. Care and detail is lavished both on them and on the background. Even the minor ones have the ring of truth. That short first person chapter includes a meditation on the internal autonomy of slaves. One member of the Dutch mission tells de Zoet, “Tain’t good intentions that pave the road to hell; it’s self-justifyin’s.” There is also towards the end a very rhythmic paragraph listing the lives/occupations of the inhabitants of Nagasaki which is reminiscent of Auden’s The Night Mail in its metre and rhyming. Then there was the almost impenetrable phrase, “A smoke-dried Dane makes Finn’s Cock of a tangled Vang,” which seems to entangle nautical terms with the history of the times.

A tour de force? It was certainly fascinating and absorbing throughout, likely to remain with me for a long time.

Pedant’s corner:- “A well-travelled round of Edam and sour apples are divided,” (a round is singular;) snonky appears to be a coinage by Mitchell; wistaria (apparently a variant of the more usual wisteria) was repeated several times; “the pair enjoys,” (again; a pair is singular) guarding this natural revile (revile here is in the sense of ravine but I can’t find such a definition anywhere.)

Deep River by Shusaku Endo

Peter Owen, 1994, 220 p. Translated from Japanese by Van C Gessel.

Deep River cover

I read Endo’s Silence (published 1966) and The Samurai (1980) years ago now but this is the first book of his I have read since. Endo’s writing is unlike most Japanese authors in that it is coloured by his Christianity, specifically Roman Catholicism. Silence dealt directly with the missionary times in Japan, The Samurai with the cultural differences between Japan and “the West.”

Deep River engages with yet another culture, that of India, mainly following a group of Japanese tourists there ostensibly to visit Buddhist sites but each of whom has his or her own concerns. Isobe has lost his wife to cancer but on her deathbed she whispered she was convinced she would reincarnate; he has learned of a possible candidate in India. Mitsuko has a connection to Ōtsu, a man she tormented in her college days who is now doing good works in Varanasi (the book spells this city’s name as Vārānasī throughout.) Numada is a children’s writer who wants to set free a myna bird as an act of restitution. Kiguchi is haunted by his experience on the Highway of Death in the retreat from Burma and wishes to have a reconciliatory memorial service to the fallen of both sides.

(Aside:- It is perhaps understandable that little of the hideousnesses that Kiguchi remembers from the retreat is remarked on in non-Japanese writings. In the aftermath of an ill-advised offensive which duly went wrong the soldiers were left to their own devices and suffered accordingly. But then even in their good times Japanese soldiers were notoriously ill-served by their superiors. In retreat they were just forgotten.)

While the first part of the book chronicles the back-stories of the four main characters it is India that is the true centre of the novel. All four encounter the overpowering nature of that country. The deep river is not only the Ganges at Varanasi but the mass of humanity. Yet even here Endo’s Catholicism makes itself felt. Ōtsu has his own particular take on theology, failing his seminary education by being unable to accept European views and seeing God in all religions not exclusively in one. Nevertheless he clings to what he sees as his Christian beliefs.

The trip coincides with Indira Gandhi’s assassination. This coupled with his experiences on the Highway of Death makes Kiguchi come to the somewhat jaundiced conclusion that, “It was not love but the formation of mutual enmities that made a bonding between human beings possible.”

While the manifestations of Japanese, and indeed Indian, culture may appear odd to western eyes, reading books like this shows that at their hearts people really do not vary much the world over. Here it is religion that is the biggest estranging factor.

Refreshingly the translation is into British English but there were some entries for Pedant’s Corner:- négligé (négligée,) when he laid (lay) in wait, her name in Rajini (is,) when… gets me alone this (like this,) resembling that of his dead wife’s (a possessive too far,) we’d better just lay low (lie,) of the the taxi, “a harmonium, an instrument resembling a harmonica” (it isn’t clear whether this is supposed to mean two different instruments or if a harmonium resembles a harmonica – which it doesn’t,) to eat they daily bread (their.)

Ragnarok: the end of the Gods by A S Byatt

Canongate, 2012, 179 p – including bibliography and 15 p on Thoughts on Myths.

 Ragnarok cover

This is Byatt’s retelling of the myths of the Norse/Germanic Gods, an interest in which she had indulged during her childhood and rekindled often in the time since. As an author so many years later her entry into the tale is via “the thin child in wartime,” a child who may be a barely disguised version of the young Byatt, a child who reflects on the copies of Asgard and the Gods and Pilgrim’s Progress she had available to read.

That these myths should have resonated with the young Byatt is not too surprising. A child growing up during the Second World War (and who was convinced her father would never return from it) may well have thought the end times were upon her. Adults may have thought so. The contrast with Christian mythology – so milk and water in comparison – perhaps presented the greatest interest. As the child reflects, “It was a good story, a story with meaning, fear and danger were in it, and things out of control.”

It is in the nature of the beast that a myth has to be told. Hence we are not shown anything here except, perhaps, in the sentences relating to the thin child. As Byatt says in her “Thoughts on Myths” afterword, Gods do not have psychology, they have – at most – attributes. Hence in the main body of the book incident is piled on incident. Things happen; but they have a driving force. “Stories are ineluctable. At this stage of every story, something must go wrong, be awry, whatever the ending to come. It is not given, even to gods, to take foolproof, perfect precautions.”

Ragnarök (the word is always spelled this way in the text but in the title has no umlaut) means judgement of the gods; judgement as in trial, not sagacity. For her notional thin child and for Byatt herself the bleak end to the Norse tales is more satisfactory than a return to, or a resurrection of, what had gone before (with which some cleaned up versions end.) “This is how myths work. They are things, creatures, stories, inhabiting the mind. They cannot be explained and do not explain.” In this they may be the opposite of novels, which by and large do.

Some new words to me were eft, gage – as in a gage of honesty – and chaunting as a (not very opaque) variant of chanting but for Pedant’s Corner we had a shrunk count of 1, plus iceflo without its terminal e, stove in (staved in,) and beseeched (besought.)

Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel

Fourth Estate, 2012, 411 p.

Bring up the Bodies cover

From its opening words, “His children are falling from the sky,” to its final ones – a warning that there are no endings, only beginnings – this second in Mantel’s Tudor trilogy is a consciously literary endeavour. (The “children” are in fact falcons named after Thomas Cromwell’s offspring.) Not that it is in any way difficult. The narration is still in the third person but the use of “he” to refer to Thomas Cromwell does not induce as much confusion as in Wolf Hall – perhaps because the reader is more accustomed to it but also since Mantel uses “he, Cromwell,” more often than in the previous book. There are occasional flourishes of poetic language to leaven proceedings and emphasise the literariness of the endeavour.

The action covers the events surrounding Anne Boleyn’s trial and execution. The phrase “Bring up the bodies” is uttered to call her supposed lovers (all of whom have been in Cromwell’s sights since they mocked his patron Cardinal Wolsey during a masqued ball at court) in to their trial. Mantel does a fine job in portraying all this history (whose outlines are well known but for which few documents remain.) Her hero, Cromwell, is instrumental in securing confessions but the text still leaves open the possibility that Anne was innocent of the charges laid.

Anne’s crime, if any, would not have been adultery (though for her lovers it would have been.) Rather, her offence was “imagining the King’s death.” This tickled me since Mantel was herself recently criticised for imagining a Prime Minister’s death – some idiot Tory MP said Mantel ought to be prosecuted for it – even though the PM concerned had already died, and crime writers imagine people’s deaths all the time.

In the book, apropos of Thomas Wyatt (the poet) Cromwell muses, “You must believe everything and nothing of what you read.” Mantel is believable. Reading Bring Up the Bodies, a much better and more rounded book than Wolf Hall, may be the best substitute for being at Henry VIII’s court. (Better even; since there is no risk to life involved in the experience.)

And only one contender for Pedant’s Corner: when he had rode. Plus not a single typo anywhere. Remarkable for these times.

Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter by Mario Vargas Llosa

faber and faber, 2000, 384 p. Translated from the Spanish La tia Julia y el escribidor by Helen R Lane

Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter cover

Eighteen year old Mario is studying law at San Marcos University but wants to be a writer. To hone his skills he has a job preparing news bulletins for Radio Panamericana in Lima. The events of the novel kick-off when his uncle’s wife’s recently divorced Bolivian sister, the Aunt Julia of the title, comes to Lima to seek a new husband. At the same time another Bolivian, Pedro Camacho (the scriptwriter,) is taken on by Panamericana’s sister radio station, Central, to write soap operas – which are soon highly successful.

Up till chapter 20 the novel consists of alternate chapters; odd numbered ones relating Mario’s dealings with both Aunt Julia and Camacho and even ones the contents of the soap operas. These latter tend to be told to us rather than shown, end with a succession of questions as to what may happen next (think Soap without the “Confused?” after the questions,) become increasingly bizarre and represent a neat way of smuggling a series of more or less unconnected (but see below) short stories into the overall compass of a novel. Chapter 20 is from a time many years later. The contents of the soap operas tend to poke fun at Argentine nationals and their customs. Mario is amazed by Camacho’s devotion to his craft leading him to wonder who is the more worthy of being called a writer, one who thinks deeply about it yet produces only a few works, or one who churns them out but whose whole life is dedicated to nothing else.

Since the family will disapprove, Mario’s relationship with the fourteen years older Julia has to be clandestine. As the complications increase so do those of the soap operas, where characters’ names alter and events from one leech into others. As the crux of Mario’s romance approaches this is mirrored in the even-numbered chapters, prefiguring the mental breakdown of Camacho, There are two ways of looking at this. Either Llosa has admirably illustrated mental breakdown in literary form or he has avoided the need for consistency in his own novel. The latter could be seen as cheating. On the other hand it could be genius at work.

Camacho gives a caution to the young Mario, “Women and art are mutually exclusive,” and in a later writerly interposition Mario realises that everyone, without exception, could be turned into a subject of a short story.

The novel seems to be closely based on Llosa’s own young life. He did marry Julia Urquidi, his maternal uncle’s sister-in-law. Personally I think writers ought to avoid any hint of biography in their fiction – unless it is so disguised as to be all but impenetrable – as it leads some to believe that no fiction is made up. How much of Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter is actual autobiography I have no idea. Not that it really matters I suppose. The novel can be enjoyed without any knowledge of the author’s life.

The literary canon is full of works which feature doomed, thwarted or inappropriate love affairs. Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter aspires towards that condition. Chapter 20 may not be the best resolution though. Better maybe to have left the love story at the traditional ending point. I will read more Llosa, though.

The translation is of course into USian and so we have “jumped rope” for skipping, flutist (flautist is more common in the UK but apparently it derives from a derogatory term) and a series of awkward phrases to do with what the text calls soccer; players “butting” the ball with their heads instead of merely heading it, making goals (or points) rather than scoring them, goalkeepers blocking penalties in place of saving them, referees “call fouls or impose penalties” instead of giving fouls and handing out bookings (or sending players off.) Strangely there was also an instance of the Scottish formulation “a wee bit.” In dialogue Camacho implies a tortoise is a marine animal and in one of the serials that a dolphin is a fish but he is supposed not to be well educated. A phrase new to me but whose meaning was immediately obvious was “do things up brown.”

For Pedant’s Corner we had “the hoi polloi,” (hoi already means the,) dumfounded and motived. I was amused by a glossary of “unusual” words in the novel (linked to from its Wiki page.) Fair enough proparoxytones, mimeticosemantic, cyclothymia, oligophrenic, acromegalic, chrematistic, paropsis, apocopes and pignoration; but lugubrious, punctilious, phlegmatic, captious, greenhorn, forensic et al? And huachafo is explained in the text.

2014 in Books Read

The ones that stick in my mind most – for whatever reason – are:-

Signs of Life by M John Harrison
Mr Mee by Andrew Crumey
Be My Enemy by Ian McDonald
The Deadman’s Pedal by Alan Warner
A Scots Quair by Lewis Grassic Gibbon – but in especial Sunset Song
The Moon King by Neil Williamson
The Dogs and the Wolves by Irène Némirovsky
The Last of the Vostyachs by Diego Marani
HHhH by Laurent Binet
That Summer by Andrew Greig
Roadside Picnic by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky
My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk
Way to Go by Alan Spence

Four SF/Fantasy novels, six Scottish ones (eight if the trilogy is separated) and no less than five translated works.

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

Fourth Estate, 2009, 651 p.

Wolf Hall cover

In ways the first few scenes of this reminded me of Science Fiction. It bore the same necessity to introduce a different milieu. Here they describe Thomas Cromwell’s early life as the son of a brutal blacksmith. The book then jumps in time to chronicle his relationship with Cardinal Wolsey, from whom he learned his craft, and his subsequent rise to the position of Henry VIII’s go to man.

Aside:- There is a peculiar fascination for certain inhabitants of these islands endlessly to dissect Tudor times. A few years ago a theory occurred to me to explain this. It is that under the Tudors was the last time in which England was just England (and Wales.) After Elizabeth Tudor’s death the monarch – and one hundred years later the Parliament – had to be shared with the Scots and nothing was quite the same again. Of course the decisive shift from Catholicism also took place on the Tudors’ watch, the beginnings of which are in the background to Wolf Hall.

The character of Thomas Cromwell has not been as exhaustively mined as those of say Thomas More or the main players in Henry’s divorce. As with Cromwell, Wolsey here gets a more sympathetic hearing than I have seen elsewhere.

The narration of Wolf Hall is in third person, closely focused on Cromwell. It uses the pronoun “he” copiously – in most cases meaning Cromwell. However, this occasionally leads to moments of confusion when other male characters are in a scene. It is an interesting decision by Mantel to use this form. Where a first person narration would have immersed us in his world view the formulation has the effect of distancing us from the man.

While well written with some very nicely turned sentences the book is probably too long, with too many characters. They are well differentiated to be sure, but not easy to keep track of. Phrases that particularly struck me were, “Perhaps it’s something women do: spend time imagining what it’s like to be each other. One can learn from that he thinks,” “You get on by being a subtle crook,” – all too true even yet – “The world is not run from border fortresses or Whitehall but in the counting houses, by the scrape of the pen on the promissory note,” “The fate of people is made like this, two men in small rooms,” and of the French wars, “The English will never be forgiven for the talent for destruction they have always displayed when they get off their own island.” To this last a Scot or Welshwoman/man might perhaps observe they didn’t even have to get off “their” island to manifest destructive tendencies.

A power of research must have gone into the book but it is worn lightly and convincingly. As to Wolf Hall itself, the seat of the Seymours, none of the action takes place there and it is mentioned in the text six times at most.

I gather the issues of length and the use of “he” are less problematic in the sequel, Bring up the Bodies. I’ll get round to it.

Pedant’s corner:- A “sprung,” j’aboube for j’adoube, “faces peers”

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