Possibly it's something women do: spend time imagining what it's like to be each other.Like all of Mantel's work, Wolf Hall pays particular attention to the difficulties faced by women in a world dominated by men. Her portrait of Anne Boleyn is stunning: she is as intelligent and perceptive as she is ruthless; at the conclusion of a hurried meeting of her family and supporters in the wake of a crisis, Cromwell--who fears her even as he supports her--notes,
One can learn from that, he thinks.
They think they are fixing her tactics, but she is her own best tactician, and able to think back and judge what has gone wrong; he admires anyone who can learn from mistakes.But Mantel's portrait of Anne's sister, Mary, is if anything more impressive: Mary suffers the king's attention but gains none of his favor, and her plight makes her as clear-eyed as anyone in the whole book outside of Cromwell, to whom early on she issues this chilling warning:
"One day," she says, "Anne will want to talk to you. She'll send for you and you'll be flattered. She'll have a little job for you, or she'll want some advice. So before that happens, you can have my advice. Turn around and walk the other way."