Editor's note: This week's Page Turner reader interview is with Laura Semba, a teacher at Carroll High School.
“I have just started reading 'Bring Up the Bodies,' by Hilary Mantel, who has won several awards, including the Booker and the National Critics Award. This is historical fiction, which I enjoy, and is about the court of Henry VIII as seen through the eyes of Cromwell. I had read Mantel's previous book, 'Wolf Hall,' and found it very interesting.
“Wolf Hall was the name of the estate of the Seymour family, and this is also about Henry VIII and his court. Katherine had been married to Henry for 20 years but was pushed out by Anne Boleyn.
“Thomas Cromwell was the son of a blacksmith with no royal blood, and his father sent him to a priest to learn how to read. His father abused him, so he went to Italy. Eventually he returned to England and became Henry's right-hand man. He helped reform the Church and helped Anne, who was pregnant at the time of her coronation.
“I found Cromwell's scheming very interesting. I don't like a lot of the stuff by modern writers; it feels empty and leaves me cold, but this is so different. I feel transported to the time period and enjoy the strategy. So Cromwell helped establish the new church. It was time for reform; there was so much corruption, buying privileges, using money for bribery, not ideals.
“Elizabeth was Anne's daughter. Anne was not at all popular, and the public did not accept her. She was vindictive, jealous, very intelligent, clever and scheming. Jane Seymour, on the other hand, was demure, innocent, modest — and a young girl.
“Thomas orchestrates Jane's rise. He puts her on the scene. He was a lawyer, and he could write laws that changed things around to make everything he wanted happen. Anne had established herself as queen, had many miscarriages — and I'm eager to get into this second book to see how Cromwell gets what he wants with Jane's rise.
“Before these two books, I had read 'Little Dorrit.' It was a selection of my book club. I had read (Charles) Dickens in school, but not 'Little Dorrit,' which I really enjoyed. I like Dickens' humor, his picture of society and the bureaucracy — and what happened in the book is exactly like the Bernie Madoff case. I appreciate Dickens.
“When I look back at favorite books, there's Jane Austen's 'Sense and Sensibility.' She could write! She takes the characters apart, and there is such biting commentary. But one book I re-read and really love is Tolkien's 'Lord of the Rings.' I read all of the Harry Potter books, but I don't think they compare favorably at all with 'Lord of the Rings.' That's one of my very favorites.”