The third book in the Wolf Hall series, The Mirror & the Light continues the life of Thomas Cromwell, but it is lacking in something. It might be that since I know what is coming (spoiler: King Henry executes him) I’m less than enthusiastic about reading his story. I like him very much, but in this book Thomas seems to be unravelling.
He isn’t seeing very clearly and isn’t communicating with his own friends and family either. Uncustomary imprecise words lead to a misunderstanding and near-breach with his son and soon-to-be daughter-in-law.
He’s losing grip on Henry, which is to be expected, but he can’t seem to see ahead like he used to. He is instrumental in bringing Gardiner home, which is an error he would not have made before Queen Jane’s death.
Reading what I wrote above, Mantel is portraying a man who is holding onto so many threads that he can no longer manage them all. Thomas’ heart seems to have gone out of him and he’s losing his grip.
I haven’t quite finished the book because I know what is coming and I know it is going to be painful and sad. In real life Thomas Cromwell wrote some very grovelling letters just before he died and I don’t want to see them man I’ve come to love and respect fall to such lows.
Should you read the entire series? Absolutely – it is fantastic. So is the TV series. But if you tend to identify strongly with characters in a novel, the last one will be painful for you.