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The Really Popular Book Club is the new reading group hosted by Cambridge University Library. Everyone is invited to join us and our special guests to discuss a really popular book, one that we all know and perhaps or perhaps not love.

Join us for this club meeting where we will be discussing Wolf Hall, the first book in Hilary Mantel’s trilogy about the rise and fall of Thomas Cromwell, the blacksmith’s son who attained extraordinary power at the court of Henry VIII. Wolf Hall traces the initial rise of this brilliant ‘Renaissance Man’ to favour amid a rich historical backdrop encompassing Henry’s divorce proceedings against Catherine of Aragon, the ascension of Anne Boleyn, and the beginning rumblings of Reformation.

Our special guest for the evening will be Dr Kelcey Wilson-Lee. Kelcey completed a PhD on medieval commemoration in 2009 and has since written on history and historic buildings for BBC History Magazine and Country Life. In 2019, she published her first book, Daughters of Chivalry: The Forgotten Children of Edward I. She is currently the Head of Programmes at the Architectural Heritage Fund.

About Wolf Hall, Kelcey says: ‘Historical fiction is notoriously difficult to get right - achieving both authenticity and accessibility requires copious research but also immense writerly discipline. Mantel's Cromwell trilogy demonstrates the full potential of the genre to inform and entertain, and to make us question how different the past really was from our own time.’

As well as hearing from Kelcey about her thoughts and observations on Wolf Hall, we will once again be opening the floor up to you, our club members, to share your own observations and remarks. To get you thinking and to help prepare any comments or questions you might want to share, we have prepared three starter questions:

1. Why is Wolf Hall such an effective example of historical fiction?

2. Cromwell’s story includes a large cast of characters, and Mantel is a true craftsman at bringing these men and women vibrantly alive – how does she believably forge heroes and villains from real historic people?

3. Mantel’s Henrician court feels alive with possibility, as though all potential futures remain open to Cromwell – what role does this sense that history isn’t inevitable play in the reader’s experience of the novel?

Further information about The Really Popular Book Club, including our FAQs, can be found here.

Where: Online via Zoom Meetings

Registration: Free event, registration required: REGISTER HERE

Date: Tuesday 25 May 2021