October 21st, 2014

the red queen.

Review: Bring Up the Bodies (Wolf Hall #2) by Hilary Mantel

Bring out the Bodies
by Hilary Mantel

Second book in the Wolf Hall trilogy

After seven years of tribulation, Anne Boleyn finally triumphed and became the queen of England, but after two years on the throne she is once again in jeopardy. King Henry VIII’s attention has strayed to Jane Seymour, a quiet and demure woman who is fiery Anne’s opposite in nearly every way. Thomas Cromwell was once Anne’s greatest ally, and together they labored to gain her a crown. Now, Cromwell faces the greatest challenge of his career: removing Anne from power without being destroyed himself.

Thomas Cromwell is almost always portrayed as a very ambitious man willing to anything to win, and while streaks of this still appear in his personality it’s considerably downplayed in Hilary Mantel’s novels. For example, his practice of torturing men to extract confessions is dismissed as rumor – the most Mantel’s Cromwell does is frighten a young musician half to death by locking him in a room overnight, not stretching him on the rack or gouging out an eye. As much as I like this new version of Cromwell, part of me wonders if he isn’t perhaps a little too cleaned up, too whitewashed of sins.

If anyone comes across as monstrous, it is the king. Cromwell has figured out that the way to survive at Henry’s court is to give the king what he wants, so when Henry hints that he wants to be rid of Anne Boleyn, all of Cromwell’s efforts go to figuring out a way to have her removed. All of his lawyer’s skill for finding loopholes is turned to this problem. Other characters point out that just as Henry turned against Anne, he may one day turn his back on Cromwell, but Cromwell’s confidence seems to rise with every page. As long as he continues to anticipate Henry VIII’s desires, which he is certain he can do indefinitely, he is safe.

Hilary Mantel’s style of writing is very immediate. While reading, you are entirely in Cromwell’s head. It is almost as if the whole book is a dream in which the reader lives Cromwell’s life – it’s that absorbing and encompassing.

As a sequel to Wolf Hall, Bring Up the Bodies is outstanding. It would also standalone remarkably well. That is, you don’t need to have read the first book in order to follow the second one’s plot. But you should. Wolf Hall takes you deeply into Cromwell’s world and greatly enhances the new story, making it nearly impossible to put down.

5 out of 5 stars

To read more about Bring Up the Bodies, buy it or add it to your wishlist click here.

Peeking into the archives...today in:
2013: Limit Vol. 3 by Keiko Suenobu
2012: Rambling about Audiobooks
2011: Twilight of Avalon (Twlight of Avalon #1) by Anna Elliott
2010: Intertwined by Gena Showalter
2009: 10 Comic Book Series You Need to Read (Even If You Don’t Like Comics) Part 1
2008: Nation by Terry Pratchett