In my ideal world, these books would not have met until later in the Tournament. They are, by a fairly comfortable margin, the two books that have most impressed me.
I am not finished with Wolf Hall yet, but, so far, it is an outstanding work of fiction. I am immersed in the political and personal intrigue in King Henry VIII’s court and admire Mantel’s beautiful writing. She does include a great deal of period detail, too much in the eyes of some. I have enjoyed it, though. This is a book in which the reader can luxuriate, enjoying the characters, the setting, and the power plays. Hilary Mantel has written a superb work that achieves its considerable ambition.
I have already reviewed The Anthologist which is also an excellent novel that achieves its own, more focused, but no less considerable, ambition. Its narrower scope and more limited appeal meant that its loss to Wolf Hall today was inevitable. I do not think that should have necessarily been the case. And I am happy that today’s judge said as much. While his subject is less grandiose, Baker set himself every bit as difficult and worthy a task. His success is worthy of praise and a Rooster. I am not saying it should have won the Rooster, only that The Anthologist is one of a handful of books, perhaps as many as four, that is worthy of winning the Rooster.
I agree with Meave Gallagher completely. She put forward a very thoughtful and considered opinion. Hers is the best analysis of the TOB so far. In a hypothetical tournament of judges, Gallagher is looking like the judge to beat.