I originally borrowed this from the library, as a new book with a 2-week loan period (no renewals). I got to page 500-and-something before I had to relinquish it back to the long line of waiting cheapskates.
So I finally broke down and bought it, and realized that I needed to start from the beginning.
And I am glad I did.
I've read the negative reviews - too hard to read, the story wanders, sometimes you can't tell who's talking. Yes, it's a challenging read. But most worthwhile pursuits are difficult; if we could all win at Wimbledon, it wouldn't be much of an accomplishment.
Typically, the greater the effort, the greater the reward, and Wolf Hall is no exception. I will say that, as someone born in the 60's, who reads, on average, a book or more a week, this is by far the best (fiction) book I've ever read. Ever.
And it's not because I am fascinated by this period of English history - I have no interest in King Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, or Cardinal Wolsey. I watched a couple of episodes of the first season of the Tudors before my attention wandered.
It's the semi-stream-of-consciousness writing, elaborately and perfectly fleshed out with details. Each character is fully inhabited and perfectly expressed by the author. As I read Wolf Hall, I often stopped and pondered what I had just read in disbelief. How could someone could be so imaginative and creative as to write it, and express it in such an elegant and simple way?
Read it slowly, and carefully, and it may become the best book you've ever read as well.