Wolf Hall: book review

whallI’ve only watched one episode of Masterpiece’s “Wolf Hall” mini-series so far — I’m saving the rest for a binge-watch at the end. Damian Lewis is so perfect for King Henry I can’t believe I didn’t think of him before. Mark Rylance isn’t how I pictured Cromwell exactly, but he’s wonderful as well. It seems like a marvelous production. Despite that, though, it’ll never match the experience of reading Hilary Martel’s novel for me. Wolf Hall was one of the finest, most engrossing books I’ve ever read.

Reposting my earlier review here…

The hardest book review to write is one for a book you loved. It’s difficult not to gush, to come up with useful analysis, even look for weak areas, when all you want to do is ramble on and on about how exceptional it was. Talking about Wolf Hall is like that for me.

Mantel turns the character of Thomas Cromwell on his head, leading us away from all we’ve previously been told of him. Not a villain here at all, he is merely a man, and a fairly good one. He is an ambitious man who strives and reaches for more, but one who is compassionate, feeling, and deeply thoughtful. A commoner from the worst of beginnings, he manages to rise to high office on merit, and no small amount of intelligence, alone. He lives, he laughs and he mourns, and mostly he builds for the future. Reading every line, even when it is not Cromwell speaking, feels like you are reading his mind, hearing things as he would have, seeing as he would have seen, and feeling as he would have as well.

Wolf Hall takes place during the heady years when Henry VIII pursued Anne Boleyn, then split the church in order to take her as his wife. Throughout these pages, Anne is a palpable, throbbing presence, always felt if not all that often seen. (“She says yes, yes, yes, then she says no,” one man describes her aptly in her absence.) And Henry himself is captured so perfectly, as both prince and man —

“The king has two bodies. The first exists within the limits of his physical being: you can measure it, and often Henry does, his waist, his calf, his other parts. The second is his princely double, free-floating, untethered, weightless, which may be in more than one place at a time. Henry may be hunting in the forest, while his princely double makes laws. One fights, one prays for peace. One is wreathed in the mystery of his kingship: one is eating a duckling with sweet green peas.” (p. 392)

But it is not only the famous Mantel brings to life, it’s also the lesser beings, the people of London, of York, of Whitehall and Putney, Calais and Essex. People of the court, people of the streets, people of the kitchens of the great halls of England. The sounds, the smells, the atmosphere, it all seems to be contained on these pages.

The details, the atmosphere, the craft in which words are spun and tales are told, all of this combines to make Wolf Hall a work of literary art. I devoured every word and longed for more, and cannot recommend it enough.

Robert E. Lee tintype fetches $23,001 for Goodwill

Robert E. Lee tintype fetches $23,001 for Goodwill.

A Goodwill worker who spotted a photograph of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee has helped the charity make $23,001 in an online auction. The tintype photograph was in a bin, about to be shipped out to an outlet store, when a worker grabbed it and sent it to the charity’s local online department. The item was put up for auction. Bidding started at $4.

A Civil War soldier’s diary in real-time, on Facebook and Twitter

From the Milford Beacon:

The Delaware Public Archives has begun tweeting entries on Twitter and posting entries on Facebook that are taken from the diary of Delaware soldier Cyrus Forwood. Readers can now follow, in real time, the travels of Forwood as he experienced the war exactly 150 years ago. Forwood’s first entry states:
“May 11th 1861. Volunteered in U.S. service for three months in the “Blue Hen’s Chicken’s.”

To see what his Civil War experience was like on a day-to-day basis, visit:

Twitter — www.twitter.com/CyrusForwood
Facebook — www.facebook.com/CyrusForwood
Blog — http://cyrusforwood.blogs.delaware.gov/



Dearest Girl of Mine: Letters home from Kenneth Boulton Thurstone, World War I Soldier, edited by Toniann Scime

Exciting news, at least for me: my book is now available!

This book was the last project I completed in my time at Amherst Museum, and it means a great deal to me. Transcribed from a truly priceless set of letters and photographs, Dearest Girl of Mine tells one soldier’s story, not just of life during wartime but also of the longing he felt for his soon-to-be wife, Harriet Jackson. You can’t help but fall a little in love with Ken and Harriet yourself, reading the letters. Creating this book was a labor of love and a fascinating endeavor for me, and aside from that, I have to tell you, it’s a great read. 🙂

Dearest Girl of Mine: Letters home from Kenneth Boulton Thurstone, World War I Soldier
Edited by Toniann Scime

278 pages; copyright 2010.

Kenneth Boulton Thurstone served with the 315th Ammunition Train of the 90th Division of the U.S. Army in World War I. A native of Buffalo who later resided in Amherst, NY, Ken wrote wonderfully detailed letters home from overseas. His descriptions of the life of a young soldier, of a young man in the early part of the twentieth century, are an invaluable resource for historians and researchers. Within these pages, however, there is also a love story, as most of Ken’s missives are written to his fiancée Harriet Jackson. His lovely words of devotion, his charming turns of phrase, and the longing to be reunited with his “dearest girl” gives every line a special and romantic poetry.

The letters were donated to Amherst Museum in 1974, at the time of Kenneth’s death, by his son, Granger. Rediscovered over 25 years later within the collection and transcribed and annotated, the text of the letters is accompanied by photographs and images of artifacts from Ken’s donation, all currently held by the museum.

Dearest Girl of Mine is currently available for $15.95 at:

Lulu.com (use code REMARKABLEYEAR305 for 20% any order)



and in limited quantities at the Amherst Museum Country Store.

Rare color photos from the Depression

Rare color photos from the Great Depression were compiled by the Farm Services Administration from 1939 and 1944 –so it’s really more a mix of the Depression and the War years. These depictions of mostly rural life, however, have a lot to say about hard times, and their vivid colors bring to life what black and white, no matter how aesthetically pleasing, sometimes distances the viewer from.

Photographers working for the U.S. government’s Farm Security Administration (FSA) and later the Office of War Information (OWI) between 1939 and 1944 made approximately 1,600 color photographs that depict life in the United States, including Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The pictures focus on rural areas and farm labor, as well as aspects of World War II mobilization, including factories, railroads, aviation training, and women working.

To browse the entire collection, visit the Library of Congress web site.

Take the iPad, leave the cannoli

From dailypress.com:

WILLIAMSBURG — City Manager Jack Tuttle made an appearance on national television today because of a City Council decision to nix paper agendas in favor of Apple iPads as a money-saving venture.

The city launched itself into the 21st century in July when the council voted unanimously to forgo printing thousands of pages of agendas and other documents distributed to council members each year. Instead, each of the five council members was issued an iPad at a cost of about $600 apiece.

The measure should save a minimum $2,000 per year on council agendas alone. At today’s City Council meeting, Tuttle said the city saved $471 in printing costs by using the iPads to deliver the meeting’s agenda packets rather than printing them.

I’m on the periphery of record management, believe me; I’m an archivist and a curator, so my work is far more subjective. But I do know that municipalities are drowning in paper, churning out more and more every day, and needing to retain all of it… and the space required, and the practical considerations, are daunting. That printing cost savings may not sound like a bundle, but it adds up… and so does the clutter.

My town used to not only print but *bind* the Town Board minutes, and then have a separate set printed for each and every councilmember and department head. Which added up to a dozen or so of these things, and there are about 50 volumes. Sigh. I am the Lorax, and I speak for the trees that wee slaughtered to make all those ugly tomes.

Thankfully the town stopped producing the things. And no one wants their old copies now, of course, but they’re all scanned in and digitized and let’s be honest, finding anything in the printed copies was like looking for a needle in a haystack anyhow. Now, of COURSE I have a set, at the town museum, and of course I’m keeping it. But how many copies of the 1943 volume do you think I need? One? Or twelve?

Documenting the business of history is important, but I think it’s high time more municipalities tried something like Williamsburg is doing.