Susan Johnson's Reviews > Bring Up the Bodies

Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
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May 02, 12

Read in May, 2012

Hall Trilogy) (Hardcover)
I can't tell you the number of books I have read about Henry VIII and his wives. Some were good and some not really worth the bother and you would think I would have had had enough. By now shouldn't I know the story backward and forward? Yet this enthralling book of the downfall of Anne Boleyn and Cromwell is quite spellbinding. And, yes, I discovered there is more to be learned about the time Henry VIII decided to rid himself of another non-male heir producing wife.
Much as been made of the author's odd habit of telling the story of Cromwell from his point of view and then using an off-putting pronoun of he when Cromwell was speaking. I never felt comfortable with the idea of Cromwell narrating the story. I finally decided it was as if the author had pulled up a chair beside me and was telling me the story from Cromwell's point of view. This made the reading much easier to me and allowed me just to sit back and relax in the story.
At times, I felt like I was reading a "People" magazine story of the time. There was so much delicious gossip in it. When Cromwell was in France, he taught fellow workers English oaths like "By the bleeding nail-holes of Christ" so they could complain behind the backs of their masters. Anne asks Norris at one point to "take away my brother's wife and drown her." - a feeling that I agreed with. Is there a person more unlikable then Lady Jane Rochford? As Anne is locked in the Tower with her life on the line, her aunts are merciless against her saying to Cromwell that she was at her prayers unless she's got a man in there with her. And the most damaging gossip attributed to Anne, "The king can perform nothing with a woman, he has neither the skill nor vigour."
Jane Seymour comes off better here than in many books. Even though she is very quiet, naive, and deferential, she has a guile that slips out occassionally. I begin to understand a little of Henry's attraction to her.
Cromwell is a skilled and adept politician who keeps his grievances to himself. There is a description of him moving sideways like a crab and it really feels that way. Things are never really what they seem. Is Cromwell just helping Henry VIII find a new wife or paying off old debts? At one point Rafe, his chief aid, says that if Anne had ruled much longer then Cromwell would have been executed. He replied that if he had allowed her to rule much longer, he would have deserved it. And the gentlemen executed as Anne's lovers had all participated in a play that mocked the fallen Cardinal Woolsey.
With this well written second book of the trilogy, Mantel gives us much to think about in how history is made. The Lord Chancellor, "The truth is so rare and precious that sometimes it must be kept under lock and key."
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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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message 1: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Strohmeyer So, I lent my copy of Wolf Hall to a friend having only read about 100 pages of it. Now, I want it back and now he says he's still reading it. But I've bought Bringing up the Bodies and am dying to read it....can I read BUB before Wolf Hall d'ya think? Thanks...your review was so detailed and I'm a similar reader of all things Henry VIII so I thought you might know....

message 2: by Susan (new) - added it

Susan Johnson I did the same thing as you did. I read about the first 100 pages of "Wolf Hall" and set it aside for a "rainy day." I had no problem reading "Bodies" without completing the first one. I'm sure it would have added some texture if I'd read it first but it was still a great read.

message 3: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Strohmeyer Thanks, Susan!

message 4: by Jean (new)

Jean Good review, Susan! I disliked "Wolf Hall" and found it tiresome to get through (as you can tell from my review) but your review of this one is making me think this sequel may be a little better... :)

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