As you might expect then, the discussion will be very limited.
First, Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall was a delightful surprise. I'm not sure what I expected from a historical fiction, and a Man Booker prize-winner at that, but I didn't quite expect such immediately engaging and compelling reading. While the opening pages offer a rather daunting "Cast of Characters" suggesting a potentially dry and/or demanding commitment to names and dates, they should rather be interpreted as suggestive of the Drama they generally introduce. This is not dry history. What I was relieved to see was that neither was it a tendentiously revisionist history. While I'm politically very appreciative of feminist retellings, I often find them heavy-handed and tiresome. Anita Diamant's The Red Tent, for example, embraced by many of my book group friends, left me more irritated than entranced. Not the case with Wolf Hall. Here the revision is not particularly aligned with an ideological or political position other than the one that says the personal, the immediate, and the domestic, matter. It's more a question of bringing the lens in closer and of bringing it to places that tend to remain unseen. Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII's trusted counsellor, is himself such a lens and is simultaneously its object.
Pater is going to read this book soon, after he finishes Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma. He's primarily interested in it for the same reasons that The Sopranos fascinated him -- the study of leadership and the politics of management -- and I think he'll find the time spent with this hefty novel (650 pages) well worth the effort. I will definitely be tracking down other titles by Ms. Mantel -- have you read this one or others?
And to tidy up the year, I'll note that I read The Scarpetta Factor, Patricia Cornwell's latest, a Christmas treat as it was still in hardcover. Not as wonderful a treat as last year's hardcover mystery post-Christmas reading, it nonetheless provided several contented hours in my leather armchair, enjoyment supplemented by the occasional Christmas chocolate or slice of fruitcake. I was pleased to note that Cornwell seems to be continuing the upward trend I noticed in the last Scarpetta, enough to keep me interested in these characters' development, although I'm still not sure she will ever be able to regain the conviction with which she sketched them in the first five or ten of this series. Still, there are some lovingly detailed meals here, a feature that both Pater and I used to really appreciate in some of the early Scarpetta.
So there you have the last of my year's reading. The next post, I hope, should offer up all my 2009 titles, and by the end of January I should finally have moved myself into 2010. Meanwhile, I've got a literature-referencing post over at Materfamilias Writes, in case you missed it, and I'm going to include here the poem that I've posted over there, a P.K. Page poem I'd never paid attention to before, and only spotted while going through collections of her work after her death on Thursday.
Unknit me --
all those blistering strange small intricate stitches --
shell stitch, moss stitch, pearl and all too plain;
unknit me to the very first row of ribbing,
let only the original simple knot remain.
Then let us start again.