Wow--an amazing novel. Please don't be put off by the odd narrative style, you get used to it quickly and it really works for this particular book. I cannot wait to read Bring Up The Bodies. Mantel most certainly deserved the Man Booker prize. Really great reading.
I already enjoy reading both novels and non-fiction regarding the court of King Henry VIII, so it does help top already have a familiarity with the cast of characters portrayed. But it is not a necessity, and I often refer to the internet while reading about a seriously intense and large cast of characters, to more easily expand my knowledge of them. This seems to be the first time I remember being exposed to the Holy Maid of Kent, a nun named Elizabeth Barton who claimed to communicate with angels, the dead, and see the future. A brilliant device by Mantel. She also turns the usual portrayal of Thomas More and Thomas Cromwell on its head, and very successfully.
I can't recommend this novel enough, especially to fans of the Tudor court. Wonderful writing and a beautifully told story.