Pompeii and Wolf Hall: Two Kinds of Historical Novel
By Garry Craig Powell
I have just finished reading, back to back, Robert Harris’ Pompeii and Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall. Both are international bestsellers; both deserve to be for the quality of the research and the vividness of the writing; both authors are English and middle-aged. (One of them, Harris, is like me an alumnus of Selwyn College, Cambridge, and was, I believe, in residence while I was, but if I met him, I don’t remember.) Both are worth adding to your summer reading list, if you haven’t read them already. Still, there are some major differences between them, which illustrate, for me, the two main categories of historical fiction, so it may be useful to consider their qualities in a little more detail.