So it was indeed Wolf Hall, in the end (though not, I note, as the result of a unanimous vote). On Newsnight Review last week, Gavin Esler and John Carey loved it, whilst Rosie Boycott and Michael Portillo felt much the way way I did about the book. They could not, however, agree on a book which was better – Carey clearly liked the Coetzee (and had what seemed a grudging soft spot for The Little Stranger), Portillo and Boycott the Byatt (which I won’t be rushing to read after Adam Roberts’s review of it).
I’m just halfway through The Glass Room, which is a sort of modernist soap opera and certainly not close to the Mantel on any level, whatever issues I have with its historiography and forbidding style. I still think that The Quickening Maze is better written, and Summertime better structured, but Wolf Hall was perhaps the favourite because it is so vast. I probably owe it a re-read.