I think I enjoyed Bring Up the Bodies more than I did Wolf Hall, but I'm not sure I could say this one is a better book.
The writing itself works bett...moreI think I enjoyed Bring Up the Bodies more than I did Wolf Hall, but I'm not sure I could say this one is a better book.
The writing itself works better, I think, and the reading experience is much smoother. Most of the distracting POV shifts from the first book are gone, and other than the occasional orphan pronoun ('He'? Who's 'he'? Oh wait, she means Cromwell again), there's very little to confuse the reader or stop the flow of the narrative. It's also a welcome change to read a second book that doesn't suffer from 'Sequel Hypertrophy Syndrome' - on the contrary, Bring Up the Bodies some 250 pages shorter than its predecessor, and it feels much tighter. Massive points for that.
I did miss having access to a bit more introspection from Cromwell's part, initially. We know he has mixed feelings about his actions, and that his motives are far from simple - as he very neatly puts it near the end of the book, (view spoiler)["He needs guilty men. So he has found men who are guilty. Though perhaps not guilty as charged." (hide spoiler)]. But since we get so very little information on what he's planning to do until we see it happen, it takes a while before you figure it out. And even Cromwell himself claims to be surprised at every turn of events ("I thought, he says to himself, that this would be difficult. But it is like picking flowers.")
As a result, the resolution doesn't come as a big reveal - it unfolds gradually, causing the reader a vague feeling of uneasiness. Instead of the well-greased political machinery depicted by history books, the conspiracy behaves almost organically, as if Cromwell had set in motion a domino effect that brought everyone's secret guilts and insecurities, eventually leading these people to their downfall.
Except that's not what happened, is it? I do appreciate what Mantel is doing here, and she does it brilliantly. Honestly, I was thoroughly creeped out, and I'm sure this is an angle of Anne Boleyn's downfall that hasn't been explored before. But at times it feels like she's trying too hard to make Thomas Cromwell look good in our eyes. We don't need this by now. We already know Mantel's Cromwell - the basic premise being that he wasn't better or worse than Thomas More, just smarter and a bit less of a fanatic. He knows his master, he has principles and he still finds a way to get the job done. Having young Mark Smeaton locked up in the darkness with the Christmas ornaments to scare him shitless so he'll think himself tortured and confess -thus saving Cromwell the need to lay a single finger on him- feels a bit like cheating.
Nevertheless, this is still a very good book, and I'm looking forward to the conclusion.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I'm giving this 5 stars because it may become "the book that ended the Non-Fiction and History Curse". For a proper review though, you'll have to wait...moreI'm giving this 5 stars because it may become "the book that ended the Non-Fiction and History Curse". For a proper review though, you'll have to wait until I've read more history and can compare. Or until Alex reads it, whatever happens first. For now, I just thought it was awesome.(less)