Big Fat Book week one

I said on twitter a couple of days ago that I’m enjoying my BFB read so much it almost feels like cheating. After reading Wolf Hall in the spring, Bring Up The Bodies is wonderfully familiar and I am lapping it up. It’s not just knowing the characters and the setting (and indeed many of the events, since this is historical fiction). It’s also feeling comfortable with Mantel’s prose. These books are very different from my normal genre fare and it did take quite a lot of perseverance a the beginning of Wolf Hall. Miss Bates is reading Wolf Hall for this BFB challenge and she has some characteristically insightful comments about how she has found the exercise. I am happy that Miss Bates is persevering and being won over by the book.

Earlier today, there was a twitter conversation about the appeal of the familiar vs. the challenge of the new. I admit, familiarity is one of the main things which appeals to me about genre fiction. I love to know that I can find a particular reading experience, a particular emotional satisfaction, a particular kind of comfort. I used to be a big re-reader, and I am a bit sad that since the arrival of the Kindle I’ve mostly stopped re-reading. New ebooks are much cheaper and more readily available. If I want, I can buy a new book when I’m already in my pyjamas without having to leave the house. I am not good at resisting that sort of temptation, so I buy a lot more new books now. But even when I’m reading new books, I am choosing authors who are known to me, category lines I am familiar with, tropes that are tried and tested. I am a cautious reader and it takes a concerted effort to make me try something different.

So I’m glad for the BFB challenge which made me pick up Wolf Hall in March. I sort of wish I’d read Bring Up The Bodies earlier and chosen something else new this time. I won’t abandon my choice now, though, since I know I’ll be away with limited reading time from July 20th to 30th. I do think I am going to try to be more deliberate in reading outside my comfort zone in the future though. I’m going to compile a short list of non-genre books I want to read and try for one every other month.

How are you getting on with your BFBs? I know Sunita had one false start but is now racing away with her second choice. Feel free to check in with your progress (or lack of it) here, or link to posts elsewhere. But don’t worry if you haven’t got far, there’s still plenty of time.


  • Greetings from across the Big Pond and thank you for the linkage of happiness to MBRR. I am persevering with my BFB and still very much enjoying it. I’ve reached the point at which Wolsey’s ousted and the Boleyns have come to the fore … even if I know the history, even when I’m reading this story as straight history so to speak, gosh, do I ever hate it. Not that I think the Protestant Revolution was a bad thing: it was probably inevitable and Hank’s need for an heir and lusting after Anne were mere catalysts to greater historical forces … but it feels like such a terrible sundering moment in Europe.

    I love Mantel’s prose: near elliptical at times, but so earthy too … and such a great capturing of character. History really comes alive. And yet she can also paint the domestic moment so well. The only thing I’ve discovered since my post is that I cannot read my BFB exclusively. On the other hand, I also discovered that I cannot read romance exclusively, so maybe all I’ve proven to myself is that I truly am a dilettante-ish spinster-reader. ;-)

    • The domestic moments are always my favourites. And the private moments. And the moments where he, Cromwell, sees right into someone’s heart and mind.

      I find the politicking fascinating. It is such an alien thing to me. I am no strategist. But I am fascinated by the political world, and seeing it in the hands of a master like Cromwell who knows exactly what cards to play and which strings to pull and understands the game so instinctively, is amazing.

      I have been thinking about your ‘sundering moment in Europe’ comment a lot. I have never thought of the Reformation like that. Did you see that animation of Europe’s changing borders that was doing the rounds a couple of months ago? I’ve always thought of Europe like that – constantly shifting allegiences and boundaries, political and ecclesiological. So for me, the Reformation feels like part of a continuum. Not all that different from things that had happened in previous centuries, nor all that different from things that are continuing to happen even in our own lifetime.

    • This is the video I was thinking of:

  • PS With all the jumping around among books I’m doing, my BFB may be a July-August project, however!

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  • I’m on board and also happen to be reading WOLF HALL, but I haven’t had much time for it. So I’m going very sloooooowwwwwlllllyyyy. I hope to be done by the end of August. I’m so early in the novel that I’m still getting oriented.