Pictorial blethers

By blethers

Waking from a dream ...

It's almost a month exactly since I blipped that I was two-thirds of the way through Hilary Mantel's tome about the last part of the life of Thomas Cromwell, The Mirror and the Light. I've been aware that I was consciously reading more and more slowly as the left hand side of the book became heavier, the right lighter, the end closer ... and I have to confess that for the past week I've felt unable to read much in bed simply because it was too disturbing for bedtime reading.

Today - at lunchtime, in the cold light of day - I finished it. And now, bringing the book upstairs to find it a place on the bookshelves, I feel bereft. What can I bear to read now? It's a long time since I've been so consumed by a book, felt that abandoned  sensation of a world lost. How does she do it? 

It's not as if I'm guilty of laying down spoilers; we know that Cromwell didn't survive Henry VIII's reign - though in my historical ignorance I didn't really know what went wrong. But the mastery of description of these last weeks - the speed of the downfall, hinted at only lightly in the preceding chapters in the manner of the king and the sense of distraction in the mind of Cromwell in his latest guise as Earl of Essex, is told as breathtakingly as it must have happened. And the last couple of days, as the condemned Cromwell realises he will probably not see out the summer, are related in a dreamlike manner that matches his state of mind. Right up to the final moment with the executioner, this reader was inside Cromwell's mind, seeing what he saw, sensing what he sensed, dreaming what he dreamed - until the end.

So this blip is simply a sort of breathless thank-you to a gifted writer who has succeeded in whisking me from one plague era to another, to a time when men - and women, let's never forget - had to die to justify the whims and desires of a few men and one in particular. Sometimes I have felt we're sliding backwards into that mindset - but then I tell myself we read such things to purge ourselves of pity and terror, and emerge the stronger.

I'll see. But I still don't know what I want to read now ...

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