601 of 622 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? ) Brief summary and review, no spoilers.
This novel is the second book of a trilogy based on the life of Thomas Cromwell. Hilary Mantel's first book, Wolf Hall: A Novel won the Man Booker Award, and deservedly so.
Whereas Wolf Hall covered a relatively long period of time - from Cromwell's humble and difficult upbringing to his becoming King Henry's closest confidant and Master Secretary - the action in this book covers just over a year. This novel begins in Sept. of 1535, and King Henry has been married to Anne Boleyn for just under 3 years. She has given birth to a daughter, Elizabeth, but like Queen Katharine before her she has failed to produce a male heir.
Anne Boleyn and her family have many enemies, both because of her haughty attitude and because of the circumstances of her marrying King Henry. England is in turmoil and deeply divided over Henry's break with the Vatican and over his controversial annulment to his beloved first wife, Katharine of Aragon. Tensions come to a head when Jane Seymour, one of Anne's ladies in waiting comes to the attention of King Henry, and then again when Anne miscarries a son on the same day Queen Katharine is buried. Henry wants out of his marriage and this does not bode well for Anne.
I think it was a wise idea to break up Cromwell's life into this trilogy. Although the time period in this book is short, it is an important time in history and one that is controversial and debated to this day. There are still open questions as to whether or not Anne Boleyn committed treason and adultery and whether or not Queen Katharine had consummated her marriage to King Henry's brother before he married her. I am not going to give away what Mantel surmises in this novel. It is part of the enjoyment in reading Bring in the Bodies to read that for yourself.
I loved Wolf Hall, and I may have even loved this novel a little more. In Wolf Hall sometimes it was hard to tell who's voice was narrating. This was not the case (for the most part) with this book. I never thought I'd be so entranced with the story of Thomas Cromwell's life, but Mantel has given us such an intimate and fascinating look at this man who played such a pivotal role in history. The Cromwell in these novels is smart, witty, and above all, very likable. And if at times in this novel the "likable" becomes a little strained, we still for the most part root for him.
I am writing this review at almost 2am because I could not put this book down. The prose is eloquent, the descriptions are evocative, and the reader will absolutely be transported back to sixteenth century Tudor England. You will also find yourself reading certain passages over and over again simply because they are so perfect. And did I mention that you will find yourself laughing out loud at times?
I cannot recommend this book enough. This series, so far, has become one of my favorites of all time. I am eagerly awaiting the conclusion to this trilogy, although I dread both the thought of it ending and then reading about what I know from history, must ultimately happen.
* If you're wondering whether you can read this book before reading Wolf Hall, I would say you could and this book stands on its own - but I recommend against it because there are certain references and flashbacks to events that happen in the first book that would be lost. To get the most out of Bring up the Bodies I would first read Wolf Hall, where you are first introduced to Thomas Cromwell and get to really understand who he is and how he became the man he did.
210 of 222 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? ) That's how Hilary Mantel describes Thomas Cromwell in the afterword to this tour de force, the second novel in a trilogy that follows one of the men most instrumental in transforming Henry VIII and his reign, the man who dedicated his life to the study of the king and how to fulfill the latter's wishes and desires. After years of rising in the king's service and having to battle with the old guard, the nobles and gentlemen -- "flattering them, cajoling them, seeking always an easy way of working, a compromise" -- Cromwell is now indispensable to Henry. He also is one of the first to realize, within the first 50 pages of the book, that the king's despair at his lack of an heir nearly three years after his marriage to Anne Boleyn, and Cromwell's own frustration with these nobles, can be neatly resolved at the same time. "I have probably, he thinks, gone as far as I can to accommodate them. Now they must accommodate me, or be removed."
If you have already read Wolf Hall: A Novel and relished Mantel's ability to capture a period in time now nearly five centuries distant, you may as well stop reading this review immediately and hit the "buy now" button to order this sequel, because the second volume in the proposed trilogy is even better. The focus is tighter - on the nine months or so leading up to the fall and execution of Anne Boleyn -- and once again Mantel recounts the events through the eyes of the consummate politician, Cromwell, who has learned well from Machiavelli and who yet still earns the understanding of readers, if not always our sympathy. Cromwell's motivations and goals may be sympathetic -- he seeks to run the kingdom well, to find a way to school and support male orphans who are abandoned (and who thus will support the female orphans), to mentor educated young men -- even when what it takes to do that makes us squirm with unease. Even when those ends justify the means of getting rid of a queen who has not done her duty. "If she will not go, she must be pushed, and I must push her, who else?" To that end, justice becomes utilitarian: it is not who is guilty, so much as what they may be guilty of, and what guilt is of use to Cromwell, acting on the king's behalf.
This is historical fiction at its best. I've been reading novels set in the Tudor era since I picked up Murder Most Royal: The Story of Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard by Jean Plaidy more than 40 years ago, and after the deluge of novels set around Anne Boleyn's rise and fall -- many of them pedestrian or thinly-disguised romances in fancy clothes -- had given up on any hope of finding a really good novel in the midst of all the pages written about Henry and his wives. But here it is. Mantel has crafted a novel that is not only about Henry and Anne, but about their era; about the unease that prevails in a kingdom with no legitimate male heir to a dynasty only two generations old and whose reigning monarch has turned his realm upside town by rejecting the pope's rule. She writes about the transformation of Tudor England, as men of ability, knowledge and focus, ranging from Cardinal Wolsey in the first volume to Cromwell and his apprentices (some of whom will outlive Henry) displace the nobility as the king's top advisors, to the disgruntlement of the dukes and earls and their scions. At the same time, Mantel never allows the substance to detract from the fact that she is telling the story of one man; of Cromwell, who rises to power because his elders and betters recognize the unique combination of ability and tenacity. (Here there are flashbacks to Cromwell's earlier life, chronicled in part in Wolf Hall: A Novel, showing how during his days on the continent, Cromwell began working as a common laborer only to be "talent spotted" and brought into the accounting house of a powerful Italian merchant.)
One of the criticisms of Mantel's first book in this trilogy was her frequent use of "he" in place of Cromwell, which some readers found awkward. In this case, she has taken pains in some points to address that, replacing a simple "he" with "he, Cromwell" and although there were a few points in the early pages where I was occasionally unclear as to who was thinking or speaking, I quickly found this retreated to the background. Indeed, I began to get a glimpse of what Mantel may be trying to accomplish with this. If Cromwell is as "densely inaccessible" as she suggests in her afterward, then a first person narrative would be too intimate; would give the reader too much insight too early into his actions and motivations. Mantel's style strikes the perfect compromise. Cromwell is the narrator; we are clearly seeing the Tudor court and England through his eyes, and we don't see the thoughts or views of other characters, except through the latters' actions; we are clearly following Cromwell throughout. And yet Cromwell is always "he"; an opaque and guarded individual. Even while we get a glimpse inside his thoughts and actions as if he were addressing a diary, we can never pretend we understand him -- and it becomes all too clear why, as some of his household remind him, his mere presence can terrify people. So his final confrontations with those who stand in the way of the king and his wishes are all the more revelatory. I hadn't thought there was much more to say about the downfall of Anne Boleyn, or much to say about Cromwell: I was very wrong on both counts.
I raced through this novel, finding it impossible to put down, and now am a bit irritable that I'll have two or three years to wait to read the concluding episode in the trilogy. That's a real tribute to anyone crafting a historical novel, as I already know what happens to Cromwell himself, when, and possibly why. But now that I have read the first two books in this series, I can't wait to see how Hilary Mantel presents the "why", because I'm quite certain that she will once again present readers not only with a "thumping good read" but a novel that defies all expectations. As Wolf Hall: A Novel ended with an execution, and with a new beginning, so does this novel, and Cromwell must once again find a way to deal not only with his monarch (as he refines his imagined "Book of Henry", a guide on how to deal with the king and his moods and whims) but with an enigmatic new queen and her family. After all, as he muses, "Henry's women come trailing families, he does not find his brides in the forest hiding under a leaf."
This novel is a brilliant accomplishment; I'd urge anyone interested in history to read it as a matter of course, and even those who were lukewarm about its predecessor to at least give it a try, as I think it is better, and more focused. (I'd still rate both books as the full five stars, however.) The style, the tight plotting, the characterizations, and Mantel's ability to capture England itself and the mundane details of 16th century English life, are without parallel. This goes straight to the top of the list of the best novels I've read this year, and I can't see how it might be displaced.
172 of 194 people found the following review helpful
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Hilary Mantel's book 'Bringing up the Bodies' is the sequel to her phenomenal Booker Prize winning book 'Wolf Hall. It continues the story of Thomas Cromwell; self made man, secretary chief minister and adviser to Henry VIII at one of the most tumultous times in British History.
Bringing up the Bodies picks up where Wolf Hall left off. Anne Boleyn is the new queen and Cromwell has gained in influence in the court. Initially the book suffers a little, as many sequels do, by trying to remind the reader of what occured in the previous novel. The author repeats some stories almost verbatim but the story quickly settles down as a continuation of the previous novel.
Mantel chooses to focus her attention on the slow fall of Anne Boleyn almost to the exception of all else. The destruction of the Monastic system in England and other political upheavals have to take a back seat to the drama between the King and Queen. Politics and schemes abound and Cromwell is mired in a crowd willing to betray him at any moment. I think the author misstepped in implying that all the men accused of having affairs with Anne Boleyn were those who had participated in one single event ridiculing Cardinal Wolsey. The idea that Cromwell, who everywhere else in the books is a practical man, would use such a public method to gain revenge seems transparently sensationalist on the author's part.
The book is also quite vague about whether Anne Boleyn was actually guilty of the crimes she was accused of. Cromwell runs through incidences he can use as proof against her and rumors he collects to bolster up his case. I think part of what Mantel's Cromwell is doing is building his legal case in his head and checking for loopholes that might come up. I don't think that Mantel is implying that she was truly guilty of every one of the crimes, but that it was expedient for Cromwell and the king for her to be convicted. Eliminating Anne Boleyn was a necessity for him since the king wanted it so. Conveniently, Anne is depicted as a scheming, desperate woman who is easily disliked by the reader. Her intelligence and her desire to use the wealth from the Dissolution of the Monasteries for charitable purposes are not depicted well even though it is entirely probable that this clash with Cromwell set them against one another.
As a sequel to Wolf Hall, I found myself comparing the two novels and found that the sequel, while still very readable, suffers in comparison. Wolf Hall could dwell on Cromwell, the man, and wonder at his hidden history and it was in the unknown events of his past that Mantel's writing was strongest. However, Cromwell's ruminations from the first book are mostly missing here. His emotional life as grieving widower and his loneliness are mentioned occassionally but mostly the book is too busy covering history to dwell on the inner Cromwell. Perhaps he is meant to be older and more decisive and less prone to sentimental thinking but that is what made the Cromwell of Wolf Hall fascinating.
I think that Mantel fails in historical accuracy in this book. Wolf Hall could be entirely believable due to the lack of historical documentation of the events and interactions depicted there. But Bringing up the Bodies seriously falters if you are a reader who knows more than a little about the history of the time. Of course, with so little written about Cromwell, Mantel has free rein to interpret the facts but now she is writing in a time period when many studies about those facts do exist and it becomes very evident that this is Historical Fiction and that the author does take license with the events and, if you believe in learning the history, you had better double check for accuracy.
Wolf Hall ended with the execution of Thomas More and Bringing up the Bodies ends with the execution of Anne Boleyn once the machinations and schemes by Cromwell ensure her condemnation.
The book is by no means the end of Cromwell's story. There is a new wife for Henry to be brought in and Cromwell's downfall to be arranged . . . but for that we will have to wait for the last book in the trilogy.
96 of 110 people found the following review helpful
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Confession time: I am a slow reader, the slowest I know among people who read for a living. Reading so slowly, I choose carefully, and reading for fun I choose murder mysteries. For business I read Renaissance literature and history, which I also teach. But when I'm not reading Milton or John Donne or Christine de Pizan -- or Lisa Jardine -- I'm reading Daniel Silva and Louise Penny and re-reading Dorothy L. Sayers. Novels -- serious novels -- aren't my thing. Give me a nice epic or some lyrics.
Amazon's recommend function energetically, tiresomely pushed Wolf Hall at me for nearly a year, but I steadfastly resisted. Mantel won the Booker Prize? I resisted even more firmly. That it was a novel about the very period I teach only made matters worse: I'd be reading for errors, not for fun.
But in the early summer of 2010, performing that annual ritual of academics -- cleaning out a year's worth of old New Yorkers -- I came upon an overlooked issue with Joan Acocella's review and I was a goner. Acocella frames the review by summoning the two Holbein portraits in the Frick: Cromwell and Thomas More. Those portraits were yet another reason I'd shunned the book -- after all, I was smitten with Paul Scofield's More while still an undergrad. But Acocella's acerbic humor drew me in, hoping for scorn but finding wonder. Using my new Kindle, I had the book ten minutes later (the sheer _bliss_ of Kindle/iPad book-buying!) and I was lost to the world.
If anyone had told me that I'd become obsessed with a 6-zillion page book about a few years (not even the last years!) in the life of Thomas Cromwell, I would have sneered my snottiest sneer. Instead I nearly wept when I turned the last page. I worried about Thomas for days, even ordering a 19th c engraving of the Holbein portrait from eBay and propping it on a bookshelf in the living room.
I offer this lengthy and self-indulgent intro to assure readers that the praise I give is neither empty nor formulaic, but rather hard-come-by and reasonably well informed. And I offer the review in the nature of a blog. I was going to wait til I'd finished the whole thing -- weeks for me, probably -- but I see others posting non-reader reviews, so I'm going to put this intro up and revise it daily.
And so, dear people who were clever enough to read Wolf Hall long before I did, here we go to Bring Up the Bodies . . . .
25 April: You gotta love a book that opens with a cast list in subheadings, one of which is THE DEAD.
26 April: And the dead are almost more present than the living in this narrative. Wolsey, of course, is the biggest shadow -- not just physically, but psychically for Thomas, since all he has to do is to look closely at that memory to realize what can happen to loyal servants of King Henry -- while Anne's famous death looms at the end. The reader, however, will feel the loss of Thomas's wife and daughters more than the Cardinal's absence or Anne's inevitable departure. The edenic home life of the first book is forever blighted and there are shadows in the orchard. For this is Thomas Cromwell's story, not Anne Boleyn's told through an unexpected keyhole. And for all that we know how Thomas's story ends, we can't be sure how it will turn out in Mantel's hands.
The single biggest question I have is this: will there be anything as wonderfully crafted as the lion story in this book?
6 May: Still reading, still grading final exams and papers, but at least I can answer that last question. In the arc of these 3 books, Bring Up the Bodies _is_ the lion story. Perfect.
24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
Let's begin with an admission: I have an extremely love-hate relationship with Wolf Hall: A Novel, the Booker Prize-winning predecessor to this novel. I don't think anyone can deny that Hilary Mantel is a tremendously talented writer, but there were long segments of Hall that were deadly dull if I'm being honest. It's a sprawling novel that takes work to get through. Finishing a book that makes you work can feel thrilling, but not when the effort is born out of frustration.
So it was with no small amount of trepidation that I picked up its sequel and plunged back into the world of Thomas Cromwell and the court of Henry VIII. You may wonder why I bothered, but the truth is that there is a great deal to love about Mantel's rich portrayal of the period. In its best moments Hall is absolutely enthralling, and the cool machinations of Cromwell make for the most layered, complex character fiction has seen in a long time. On top of all that, the focus of this installment is perhaps the most intriguing (and bloody) time in British history: the
downfall and execution of Anne Boleyn. It has everything most readers dream of (love, sex, power, violence, and betrayal), plus the added bonus of a writer with serious literary heft. How could you resist?
I was not disappointed. I expected to rely on the family trees and extensive character guides at the beginning of the novel (as I did with Hall), but I was pleasantly surprised to find that I fell back into the world of Henry VIII with ease and a great deal of familiarity. I already got to know everyone. I already knew their history, their alliances, and what skeletons they had hidden in their closets. A lot of Hall is dragged down by exposition but it really seems to have paid off in the end. You see, in the first novel we get the full introduction to Cromwell: his childhood, his years wandering abroad, his time working for Cardinal Wolsey, and his unexpected rise in Henry's favor following Wolsey's downfall. It's information that is vital to Mantel's recreation of Cromwell, but Bodies has the luxury of skimming over all the detail work. It makes for a significantly more focused story. Consider this: while Hall spanned decades, Bodies takes place in a scant nine month period.
And what a nine months! Henry, already disillusioned with Anne at the close of Hall, begins to transfer his affections to Jane Seymour, making it necessary to undo a marriage he had moved Heaven and Earth to make possible in the first place. The characterizations of Cromwell, Anne, and Henry are where Mantel's writing shines the brightest for me. Anne's dark, glittery eyes are a descriptive quality that has stayed with me from the first book. But here they are all getting older. Henry is in middle age and desperate for a legitimate heir to the throne. Anne, who maneuvered so seductively into the throne, is losing her guile and her grip more and more. And Cromwell, also in middle age, is becoming so fixated on achieving revenge on those who have wronged him and his beloved Cardinal Wolsey that he is slowly sowing the seeds of his own eventual downfall.
"A queen, and [Anne] calls herself a queen, must live and suffer under the world's eye."
But it's not just them changing. The entire world is shifting in a new direction--largely because of their actions. Henry's divorce from Katherine of Aragon has scandalized the world. His break from the Catholic church challenged the authority of an institution most people believed unassailable. Boleyn and, especially, Cromwell are eyed with suspicion because of their 'low birth.' Yet they have ruthlessly risen to two of the highest positions in their country. The classical orders aren't just being challenged, they're being ripped asunder. "Chivalry's day is over. One day soon moss will grow in the tilt yard. The days of the moneylender have arrived, and the days of the swaggering privateer; banker sits down with banker, and kings are their waiting boys." The fact that this novel arrives on the heels of the Occupy Wall Street movement makes it all the more timely.
We know that Anne's bloody end is approaching, that Henry will have two wives after Jane Seymour, and that Cromwell's own relationship with Henry will come to a bitter end. But watching it all unfold through Mantel's eyes is nothing short of fascinating. She still rambles a bit. At times her prose seems willfully opaque. She is defiantly not an author who spells it all out for the reader; indeed, one can never be quite certain which lines the characters speak are lies and which are true (particularly when it comes to Henry). But isn't that life for you? In the end, finishing Bring Up the Bodies gave me a charge the way Wolf Hall didn't. This one is work that is worth the effort.
Expect to see it on numerous best-of lists by the end of the year.
26 of 30 people found the following review helpful
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This is the second in a planned trilogy. The first book, "Wolf Hall", came out in 2009 and was simply dazzling. Focusing on the life of Thomas Cromwell, it encompasses all the splendor and squalor of the Tudor era. I've been eagerly awaiting this second volume, though I expected it to be somewhat less brilliant. Usually, the middle volume of a trilogy suffers from being the bridge between a highly energetic beginning and the climactic ending. But Mantel has cleverly chosen a period which has a profoundly interesting storyline: the downfall of Anne Boleyn. I can't imagine anyone who doesn't already know her story, whether they learned it in school, read it in a romance or historical novel, or watched anything from Masterpiece Theater to HBO's medieval porn series "The Tudors". But it's a great hook to use, since Cromwell's middle years are not as riveting, except to those who are deeply invested in history. He was a fascinating person (and, incidentally, a relative of Oliver Cromwell who overthrew the monarchy a couple of hundred years later), but a book about the laws he suggested or enforced, the religious reform he encouraged, and so on, would be much too dry. Placing this book squarely in the middle of Boleyn's downfall adds suspense, intrigue and interest. There is one thing Mantel does, however, which I find distracting. She writes in the third person, but in such a way that it often seems to be almost the first person. The reader sees this most often in dialogue, where she'll write "He, Cromwell, said...". Otherwise, the "he" would be difficult to determine. She did this in the first book as well, but it's more noticeable in "Bring Up the Bodies". Otherwise, this is an excellent sequel and I'm already looking forward to the conclusion of the trilogy. This isn't a fast read, and it's a thick book, but I had been looking forward to it for several years and the minute it arrived, I gave myself uninterrupted time to work through it. I do recommend, however, that you read "Wolf Hall" first, because there is so much historical backstory that is needed to really understand what is going on. This is not a stand-alone book.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on October 28, 2012
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Having read the glowing reviews of this second book in Hilary Mantel trilogy about Thomas Cromwell and the court of Henry VIII, I had hope that it would be a continuation of the great pleasure I had in reading the first in the series, Wolf Hall. Sadly, I found the second book a "grave" disappointment (forgive the pun). There was the same fine writing, same excellent insights, same historical precision, but there was no drive to the telling of the story, nothing in it that made me want to proceed from one page to another - other than the fact that I had purchased the book and I am obsessive about finishing books (something I should have cured myself of years ago). The book does not so much stumble as amble along, and unlike Wolf Hall which had true blood and gristle and moral ambiguity, it lacks a vigor that makes it seem almost precious at times. I am amazed that it won this year's Booker Award - it is probably the safe choice - but not a good one. This will not discourage me from buying the third in the series when it is finally published, but I feel obliged to warn all those who admired Wolf Hall that you will not find the pleasures of the first book replicated in the second - and what replaces them - Henry's attempt to dispose of Ann Boylen and replace her with Jane Seymour - events aided by our hero Thomas Cromell lack the passion and delight that this most dramatic event should have had. Not a bad book. Not a good one.
23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
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"Bring Up the Bodies" covers the ruin of Anne Boleyn; the last months leading to her execution. Henry VIII has become disenchanted with her because of her inability to provide him a son so he does what an all-powerful king can do & has her executed. Of course he needs help justifying it to himself & his people so in comes Cromwell. Cromwell is a master of character destruction and in Mantel's hands, we see many sides of his complex character.
The story picks up at the end of "Wolf Hall". "Wolf Hall" dealt mainly with Thomas Cromwell & the story of how he rose from common beginnings to becoming a close advisor to King Henry VIII. It was a wonderful book & awarded the 2009 Booker Prize. Mantel left me wanting more of the story and this sequel delivers.
Mantel's writing is again enthralling and lets a very complex story tell itself; she doesn't overwrite. Many authors of historical fiction tend to tell everything; they know their subject well & can't seem to stop from writing & writing. When authors choose their words carefully it shows the reader even more without boring them. Mantel has a gift for writing beautiful and revelatory sentences. Her writing allows the reader to inhabit the skin of the character; we see, feel and understand what is driving the character. This can be disturbing when you start to feel empathy for Cromwell.
This is the second book in a trilogy. The third book will be "The Mirror and the Light" and (according to Mantel) will continue Cromwell's story until his execution. If you haven't read the first book "Wolf Hall", you should read it before this book because there are references to parts of the story that lead to this story. You won't be completely lost if you don't but it's an outstanding book and the foundation for this book.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
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When I first read Wolf Hall, I thought a lot of the action was misdirected to the sidelines and rehashed in conversations (though clever) because Hilary Mantel writes from Cromwell's perspective. Before reading this book, I re-read it and see I kind of missed the point. Cromwell's perspective shows us that even the mighty King Henry the VIII was forced to use Cromwell to accomplish his goals. Mantel also has a real gift for enlivening the characters. This is a main point of both books because let's face it--there are no major plot twists. Mantel employs this gift even more in Bringing up the Bodies. After Henry with Cromwell's help was able to set aside his anointed Queen Katherine, he is once again frustrated with his Queen. The marriage has yielded nothing but a girl, and after Anne miscarries, Henry is ready to walk away. Can Thomas Cromwell secure him a way out?
We know that of course he can. The genius of this series is the characterization of Cromwell. Mantel gives him a lot of sympathetic strokes: a rough child hood, grief over his mentor the late Cardinal, his dead wife and daughters. But Mantel also presents a ruthless Cromwell with a score to settle. An ambitious and brilliant man who could build a few whispers and confidences into a case that would change court and country. He's no longer apologizing for who he is but instead replying to prostrations of innocence with lines like, "Life pays you out, Norris. Don't you find? And...It is not all about the cardinal, either. I would not want you to think I am without motives of my own."
Mantel is more focused as well telling the story of a few months' time -- the events leading up to Anne's trial. Bringing up the Bodies is the most legal account of Anne's fall that I've ever read comparable even to the non-fiction on the subject. Cromwell's artful case construction is fascinating. Those who know the key "players" and the historical record leading up to the story will have an easier time. The majority of backstory is limited to a genealogical chart. Mantel also clearly favors Cromwell, who as he is taking down men and women innocent of one crime but "guilty of something", the Boleyn's still come across as the threatening force. One of the most fascinating things about this drama is that no one escapes, so I am eagerly awaiting book 3 and hoping it offers a take on Cromwell's own demise.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on May 11, 2012
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Although the vicissitudes of Henry VIII and all surrounding him is almost mythical due to its appearance in film, television and print over the last 40 years, Hilary Mantel continues her fresh perspective through the eyes and mind of Thomas Cromwell, self-made man, innovator, would-be prime mover in the reenergization of the English state, in _Bring Out the Bodies_, the second volume of the trilogy that began with her _Wolf Hall_.
Older, more experienced, even more confident, yet aware of creeping mortality and the various shades that haunt his life - his wife Elizabeth, dead almost a decade, their two daughters Anne and Grace killed by the plague, his old mentor Wolsey, hounded to death - Cromwell enjoys his recent successes of outmaneuvering his enemies, eliminating the impediments to King Henry's change of wives and reinventing English religion in a national model. He has more and better ideas now, both for the nation and his family - Cromwell ought to have "work smarter" on his coat of arms ... but Henry VIII has other priorities.
I believe _Bring Up the Bodies_ recaps fairly well where the story is at the beginning of the book, and who the characters are, unobtrusively, possibly to the point that someone who has not read _Wolf Hall_ could pick it up and go, with some review of the "Cast of Characters" section at the beginning (although they would be missing so much joy from the excellent read that _Wolf Hall_ is.)
_Bring Up the Bodies_ is a *slightly* shorter book than _Wolf Hall_ and much more fast-paced; it covers barely a year. Mantel manages to keep one on the edge even with the more well-known parts of the tale, changing the point-of-view as Cromwell perceives events or others describe them to him. His internal narrative shifts further as the story moves along, and teasing out the reasons for the different tone and churn of his thoughts is part and parcel of the story.
In an Author's Note at the conclusion, Mantel provides her rationale for the historical interpretation she has taken, and comments, "I am not claiming authority for my view; I am making the reader a proposal."
When I finished _Bring Up the Bodies_, I thought, "wow."
Now I just want to read it again.