I can feel the eyes of Thomas Cromwell creeping up on me, ever vigilant, watchful, weighing. Diving into these 600+ pages, I found myself in the 1500s, watching Cromwell struggle with his father’s fists and abuse, finally escaping the country at fifteen to make his own way, then seeing his rise to power at the hem of Cardinal Wolsey from whom he learns how to say soothing phrases while gripping throats tightly. Cromwell makes himself indispensable to Anne Boleyn and Henry (VIII), acquiring power slowly, putting people in his debt for favors, skillfully maneuvering the state towards a break with the Church in Rome. Written in a very modern tone, it doesn’t feel anachronistic, but keeps the story alive, you’re inside Cromwell’s thoughts. The ever-present “he” is Cromwell in the story. His spies in every corner, he finally puts Thomas More in the Tower, then executes him for his unwillingness to swear the oath that the king is head of the church. His son and various wards all married off, we see him at the end of the book with five days that he’ll spend in Wolf Hall with the Seymours, his fondness for Jane growing. Enjoyable to see him rein himself in, his wild thoughts or tendency to laugh stifled while he “arranged his face.” Also great sections with Hans Holbein painting both More and Cromwell, I sat reading under a postcard from the Frick of the wonderful Thomas More painting, then had to search up an internet picture of the companion portrait, that of Cromwell, that sits across from the More painting in New York. Terrific historical fiction; I’ve already ordered up book two from the library so I don’t miss a beat of the action!