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Bring Up the Bodies (Wolf Hall, Book 2) Paperback – May 7, 2013
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"Warlight" by Michael Ondaatje
A dramatic coming-of-age story set in the decade after World War II, "Warlight" is the mesmerizing new novel from the best-selling author of "The English Patient." Learn more
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“Mantel knows what to select, how to make her scenes vivid, how to kindle her characters. She seems almost incapable of abstraction or fraudulence; she instinctively grabs for the reachably real...In short, this novelist has the maddeningly unteachable gift of being interesting.” ―The New Yorker
“[Bring Up the Bodies] is astringent and purifying, stripping away the cobwebs and varnish of history, the antique formulations and brocaded sentimentality of costume drama novels, so that the English past comes to seem like something vivid , strange and brand new.” ―The New York Times Book Review
“Two years ago something astonishingly fair happened in the world of prestigious prizes: the Man Booker Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction for 2009 both went to the right winner. The book was Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall, and it would have dwarfed the competition any year…It was a hard act to follow. But the follow-up is equally sublime…That ironic ending will be no cliffhanger for anyone even remotely familiar with Henry VIII's trail of carnage. But in Bring Up the Bodies it works as one. The wonder of Ms. Mantel's retelling is that she makes these events fresh and terrifying all over again.” ―The New York Times
“Bring Up the Bodies isn't just her boldest book; it's also her best -- and it reaffirms Mantel's reputation as one of England's greatest living novelists.” ―NPR
“Hilary Mantel made waves in 2009 with her Man Booker Prize-winning page-turner, Wolf Hall…The second in her planned trilogy, Bring Up the Bodies stalks Anne Boleyn and the soap-opera worthy machinations of Cromwell and his evil allies to bring down the powerful wife of the king. Who knew history could be so sexy?” ―Vanity Fair
“What's being called the Wolf Hall Trilogy is a remarkable work in progress, a series that makes the past feel immediate and--this is the best part--unpredictable. Even if you know the history, you'll find yourself racing through these pages to find out what happens next.” ―People
“After pulling off this literary feat twice, you realize the smartest person in the room isn't Cromwell after all--it's Mantel.” ―The Huffington Post
“the finest works of historical fiction in contemporary literature.” ―The Washington Post
“Fans of Wolf Hall will relish this book, but Bring Up the Bodies also stands alone…Her characters are real and vivid people who bring to life the clash of ideals that gripped England at the time. She makes the past present and vital.” ―The Economist
“Bring Up the Bodies stands magnificently on its own...such is [Mantel's] skill” ―LA Times
“You won't be able to tear your eyes away.” ―The Seattle Times
“The worst that can be said about Mantel--her latest book makes you angry, because you want more.” ―Slate
“In Mantel's hands, Cromwell's cunning, morally complicated orchestration of that historic slice through the royal neck is as exciting as any thriller.” ―Entertainment Weekly
“With wit, daring style, and a staggering breadth of historical knowledge, Mantel breathes new life into reclaimed territory.” ―Bookslut
About the Author
HILARY MANTEL is the bestselling author of ten previous novels, including Wolf Hall, which sold more than 200,000 copies and won the 2009 Man Booker Prize. Her previous works include her novel, A Place of Greater Safety, and her memoir, Giving Up the Ghost. She lives in England with her husband.
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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.
By now, Thomas Cromwell has become one of the most powerful counselors to King Henry, and yet it is also more evident than ever that his hold to power is precarious. The main plotline of this book is Queen Anne’s demise, and Cromwell’s part in it. Not vindictive, not cruel, just doing his job, constructing a legal case out of Henry’s desire to be rid of Anne so that he can try his luck for a male heir with yet another wife.
Mantel continues to impress with her in-depth research of the period and ability to humanize her characters. She constructs so many complex layers of Thomas Cromwell – through the way he conducts his craft as Henry’s chief lawyer, and through his many reminiscences of his own past as a mercenary and a young apprentice in Italy. I suspect she takes quite a few artistic freedoms in imagining his character – was he really this forward-thinking? Was he really such a good family man? But she does it so well and entirely believable, that whether this is the true Thomas Cromwell or not is almost beside the point. Her Thomas Cromwell will be the one you’ll imagine for the rest of time after reading Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies.
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