10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Better than Wolf Hall,
This review is from: Bring Up the Bodies (Hardcover)
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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.