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Thomas Cromwell #2

Bring Up the Bodies

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Alternate Cover Edition ISBN 0805090037 (ISBN13: 9780805090031)

Though he battled for years to marry her, Henry VIII has become disenchanted with the audacious Anne Boleyn. She has failed to give him a son, and her sharp intelligence and strong will have alienated his old friends and the noble families of England.

When the discarded Katherine, Henry's first wife, dies in exile from the court, Anne stands starkly exposed, the focus of gossip and malice, setting in motion a dramatic trial of the queen and her suitors for adultery and treason.

At a word from Henry, Thomas Cromwell is ready to bring her down. Over a few terrifying weeks, Anne is ensnared in a web of conspiracy, while the demure Jane Seymour stands waiting her turn for the poisoned wedding ring. But Anne and her powerful family will not yield without a ferocious struggle. To defeat the Boleyns, Cromwell must ally himself with his enemies. What price will he pay for Annie's head?

412 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2012

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About the author

Hilary Mantel

104 books6,873 followers
Hilary Mantel was the bestselling author of many novels including Wolf Hall, which won the Man Booker Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction. Bring Up the Bodies, Book Two of the Wolf Hall Trilogy, was also awarded the Man Booker Prize and the Costa Book Award. She also wrote A Change of Climate, A Place of Greater Safety, Eight Months on Ghazzah Street, An Experiment in Love, The Giant, O'Brien, Fludd, Beyond Black, Every Day Is Mother's Day, Vacant Possession, and a memoir, Giving Up the Ghost. Mantel was the winner of the Hawthornden Prize, and her reviews and essays have appeared in The New York Times, The New York Review of Books, and the London Review of Books.

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Profile Image for David.
865 reviews1,299 followers
May 20, 2012
The normally flinty James Wood recently wrote what can only be characterized as an extended mash note to Hilary Mantel in the New Yorker, based on this book and its predecessor, Wolf Hall. I can only concur, and add a few observations of my own.

How good is this book? It's so good that
(i) I am trying to ration myself to only 50 pages a day, to spin out the experience of reading it just that little bit longer
(ii) I am failing miserably in objective (i) above, because I am an undisciplined wretch, completely lacking in self-control, and I just can't help myself
(iii) I call people up on the other side of the Atlantic, just to read them choice sentences
(iv) I feel impelled to share a few of those sentences with you

Thomas Cromwell is attempting to sway the deposed queen Katherine of Aragon and says something to incite her displeasure:

"There is a pause, while she turns the great pages of her volume of rage, and puts her finger on just the right word"

of one of Anne Boleyn's ladies-in-waiting:

"If someone said to Lady Rochford, 'It's raining,' she would turn it into a conspiracy; as she passed the news on, she would make it sound somehow indecent, unlikely, but sadly true."

I'm not sure if James Wood actually went as far as to say that he would be happy to read Hilary Mantel's grocery list. But, based on the quality of the writing in the "Wolf Hall" books, I would.
You wouldn't think it possible to tell the story of the Tudors and make it fresh. But Mantel succeeds once again, brilliantly.

Added on edit after finishing:

The last 50 pages of this are frightening, and frighteningly good. James Wood offers far more insight into what he calls Mantel's "novelistic intelligence", also on the topic of "authenticity" (where he makes a compelling case that fiction can offer a kind of authenticity that actually surpasses historical accuracy) than I ever could (though I found myself agreeing with everything he wrote, and the examples he cites are the same ones I would cite), so here is a link to his review -- I think it is accessible even in you don't have a New Yorker subscription.

Wood on Mantel

And finally, a note from Hilary Mantel, promising future delights.

".... Thomas Cromwell, who is still in need of attention from biographers. Meanwhile, Mr Secretary remains sleek, plump and densely inaccessible, like a choice plum in a Christmas pie; but I hope to continue my efforts to dig him out".

Bonne continuation, Mme Mantel, bonne continuation !!
Profile Image for Will Byrnes.
1,295 reviews120k followers
May 25, 2023
His whole career has been an education in hypocrisy. Eyes that once skewered him now kindle with simulated regard. Hands that would like to knock his hat off now reach out to take his hand, sometimes in a crushing grip. He has spun his enemies to face him, to join him: as in a dance. He means to spin them away again, so they look down the long cold vista of their years: so they feel the wind, the wind of exposed places, that cuts to the bone: so they bed down in ruins, and wake up cold.
Be careful what you wish for. Henry VIII was pining for the younger-than-his-current-wife Anne Boleyn. After getting his heart’s desire, which required him to take on the Catholic Church, one might imagine him speaking to Thomas Cromwell as Ollie might have said to Laurel, “Well, here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into!” nicely demonstrating an inability to accept any responsibility for his own actions. Of course, AB had gotten her heart’s desire as well, a nifty crown, plenty of staff, and she gets to headline at the palace. But pride, and not popping out a male heir, goeth before the fall, and well, the girl should have known. I mean H8 was not exactly a model hubby to his first wife. Why would she think he’d be any more loyal to her? Time for the head of household to summon Mister Fixit.

Rafe Sadler and Stephen Gardiner

Looking for advice on ridding yourself of unwanted household pests? Running low on funds for your comfortable lifestyle? Need the occasional hard thump to the torso to get the old ticker restarted? Need to re-direct your reproductive efforts towards a more masculine outcome? Need to fend off potential assaults by enemies foreign and domestic? Why, call Mister Fixit (Yes, yes, I know there were no phones in 16th Century England, so summon Mr. Fixit. OK? Happy now? Jeez, some people). Thomas Cromwell, a man of modest origins who had risen to the highest position in the land, that did not absolutely require aristocratic genes, had already demonstrated a penchant for getting things done, by whatever means necessary. And so continues the tale, in book 2 of Hilary Mantel’s trilogy about Tudor England.

Hilary Mantel

The end of Wolf Hall (You read Wolf Hall, right? If you haven’t, stop reading this now, and go get a copy. Read that and when you are done, feel free to return. What are you waiting for? Go! Scat!) was H8’s marriage to AB. The quest had come to the desired conclusion, and now they’re gonna party like it’s 1533. Not only had H8 succeeded in flipping the bird (a falcon in this case – see the badges below) to the RC, but he was engaged in swiping their stuff as well. Pope? We doan need no steenking Pope. Cromwell was the guy who had done most of the fixing. So everything should be fine now, right? Not so fast.

Dueling Badges – Anne Boleyn’s and Catherine of Aragon’s - in case any are needed

AB is getting very full of herself but not, unfortunately full of a male heir, and there are younger ladies-in-waiting, you know, waiting. H8 has an eye problem. It wanders uncontrollably, in this instance to young, demure Jane Seymour. Of course there is the pesky business of clearing that obstruction from the royal path, and Mister Fixit is called in (sorry, summoned) to make it go away. Luckily for him he has his fingers in many administrative pies (you washed those fingers before inserting, right?) and is not shy about using his inside knowledge to achieve his boss’s goals. Cromwell also has an excellent network of spies (little birds?) sprinkled throughout the realm. Combine the two, make much of what was probably idle gossip, add a dollop or three of spite and voila. For good measure, TC takes particular pleasure in focusing his skills on those who had done dirt to his mentor, Cardinal Wolsey, ticking off each one as they succumb to his devilry. (Like a certain Stark lass ticking off her list of future targets at bedtime)

The once and future – Catherine of Aragon and Jane Seymour

Was AB guilty of the crimes of which she was accused? Probably not. But as long as the folks in charge can get the people with weapons to do their bidding it does not much matter. There is no law, really, only power. Legal processes are often mere window dressing to the underlying exercise of big fish eating smaller fish, and sometimes spitting them out. The fiction of legality keeps the mass of smaller fish from chomping their much larger tormenters to bits. Sort of like now. See, people? It’s all perfectly legal.

Bring Up the Bodies is a masterful achievement, showing, step-by-step, how dark aims are orchestrated and achieved. In laying this out, Hilary Mantel also offers us a look at how the reins of power can be abused by the unscrupulous, and Thomas Cromwell is shown in his full unscrupulousness in this volume. He was gonna get these guys and when he saw his chance, he took it. Where Wolf Hall presented a more removed Cromwell, Bring Up the Bodies shows us Cromwell as more than a fixer, more than a technocrat. We get to see him as a monster, despite his supposed desire to make England more equitable for working people.

H8 is shown much more as a spoiled psycho-child in this volume. (Musk? Trump?) Whatever his intelligence, whatever his accomplishments, what we see of Henry here is primarily his boorishness, his childishness. I want what I want and I do not care who gets hurt, or even killed, so I can have it. I was reminded of the great Twilight Zone episode It’s a Good Life.

Mantel won a second Booker prize for this one, and it was well deserved. Not only do we get a very human look at a key period in Western history, but are blessed with Mantel’s amazing wit as manifested by her characters, and consideration of issues that transcend history, as well as a compelling episode of Survival: Tudor. It is an easier read than the first book, more engaging, if that is possible. If you have not seen the miniseries made from the combined volumes you really must. Hilary Mantel has brought out her best in Bring Up the Bodies, using her genius for historical fiction to make the old seem new again. You won’t lose your head if you don’t read this book, but you probably should.

Review first posted – 5/22/15
Published– 5/8/2012

The final volume in the series, The Mirror and the Light, was releases in 2020, according to the latest intel.

=============================EXTRA STUFF

My review of Wolf Hall

Links to the author’s personal, Twitter, Google + and FB pages

Excellent radio interview with Mantel by Leonard Lopate

A marvelous New Yorker magazine article looking at Mantel’s career

Great material here in another New Yorker article, Invitation to a Beheading, by James Wood

Why isn't Henry VIII fat and other Wolf Hall mysteries explained
Profile Image for Sean Barrs .
1,113 reviews44.4k followers
May 2, 2020
Mantel is such an excellent writer; her prose is eloquent and artistic, beautiful even.. Few writers have such skill. She uses every grammatical tool at her disposal to give her novel a strong individual sense of stylistic flair. And that’s just the surface level of her sentences; she also uses metaphor and constant allusions to take it to another level entirely.

For example, my favourite passage in the book:

“He looks around at his guests. All are prepared. A Latin grace; English would be his choice, but he will suit his company. Who cross themselves ostentatiously, in papist style. Who look at him, expectant. He shouts for the waiters. The doors burst open. Sweating men heave the platters to the table. It seems the meat is fresh, in fact not slaughtered yet. It is just a minor breach of etiquette. The company must sit and salivate. The Boleyns are laid at his hand to be carved.”



This is so much stronger that its predecessor Wolf Hall. There is a stronger narrative drive and Cromwell has more momentum and enthusiasm for achieving his ambitions. He is also getting used to his power and his influence, testing them to see how far they can reach. A risky game, but we all know what came of it in the end. He is a very intelligent man, able to root out evidence for the king when there is none to be found. The Boleyn family, though politically smart, were vastly out matched by the cunning of Cromwell. When the king wanted them out, Cromwell didn’t have to work too hard to achieve it.

Mantel has improved on her style so much here. Wolf Hall was exceptionally good, but it did have many flaws. It was a hard book to read. My main problem with it was trying to discern who the “he” in question within the writing. For example Cromwell was referred to “he” whist talking to another “he” about a pair of “he’s” they were feared were scheming against them. Uncomfortable stuff, though she seems to have listened to the criticism her first book received and the result is a much stronger piece of writing.

So what’s it all about?

Boredom. Boredom and anger. Henry VIII’s new wife Ann Boleyn has failed to give him a son, such a terrible thing. The entire situation is ridiculously ironic considering the one child she did give him, the future Elizabeth I, would become a much better monarch than he could ever be. The fat fool didn’t need a son! But his silly little masculine ego demanded one. Sure you could talk about the politics involved in having a male offspring, but, again, just look at what Elizabeth did by herself. She had no direct heir. When she died she gave the throne to the King of Scotland. Enough said.

Cromwell has a large task on his hands, but he was more than capable of carving up the Boleyns. The only real complication was he had to do it within the limitations of the law. The king can’t be above his own mandates, and he has to be able to justify his brutal actions even if the entire world new he was full of rubbish and would bend the system to his own ends and act all innocent about it. Then blame his councillors’ years later for his own decisions. Cromwell, naturally, goes to work. But his day of reckoning draws very near.

I can’t wait to read the final book in this series. It’s obvious how it will all end: the chopping block. It will be interesting to see how Mantel handles the fall of Cromwell. I also wonder if she will win the man booker prize again. I think she’s great, but I don’t think she deserves it again. The prize is for innovating, high quality writing. But her writing is no longer innovative. It’s a regurgitation of what she has already done (not a bad thing) but I don’t think she should win the prize multiple times for doing the same things. Still, I'm excited for the third book.


You can connect with me on social media via My Linktree.
Profile Image for Paula K .
417 reviews424 followers
June 5, 2020
Booker Prize 2012
Costa Book Award 2012
Women’s Prize for Fiction nominee 2013

Brilliant! A masterful piece of literature! I loved WOLF HALL, the first book in the Thomas Cromwell series, but I have to say I enjoyed BRING UP THE BODIES even more If that is even possible. There is no lack of excitement in book #2. Henry VIII asks Cromwell to get rid of Anne Boleyn as she hasn’t given him a son. The King wants to make way for another, Jane Seymour, that has caught his eye. His first wife, Katherine, has died so all is well to move on to wife #3 once a plan is put together for Queen Anne’s demise.

BRING UP THE BODIES is character-driven and thoroughly engaging. Be ready to live in the Tudor world, their real world. Expect some of the best dialogue you have ever set your eyes on or listened to. You will be so entertained with the court intrigue, accusations of adultery and treason, the power yielded, and finally death and execution.

If you haven’t done so, do look for the PBS production, WOLF HALL, which is a combination of the first two books of the trilogy. I just started listening to book #3 THE MIRROR AND THE LIGHT and will be looking forward to the upcoming PBS production of the last of the trilogy.

A phenomenal 5 out of 5 stars

Profile Image for Richard (on hiatus).
160 reviews182 followers
January 19, 2022
Bring Up the Bodies by Hillary Mantel continues the first person narrative of Thomas Cromwell, lawyer, enabler and right hand man to Henry Vlll. We pick up the story in 1535, Anne Boleyn has finally been installed as Queen but things aren’t looking good. Her relationship with Henry is fractious and still no male baby/ heir is on the horizon.
Gradually Henry’s head is turned away from his sharp and haughty wife to Jane Seymour ....... a young member of a powerful family. He feels relaxed in her company. Quiet, shy and a virgin she is very different to Anne.
Of course at this stage the Boleyn family, friends and hangers on are firmly ensconced in the highest tier of society, and it falls to Cromwell to facilitate this new coupling.
As ever, Cromwell has to control power struggles within the tangled web of politicians, noblemen, religious leaders and powerful families, continually having to manage allegiances and loyalties.
He also has to influence and smooth the growing rift/ tensions with Rome and the governments of Europe (no, Brexit isn’t a new phenomenon!!)
A complicated and almost impossible job ............ and at one particularly memorable point, after a dramatic incident involving Henry, Cromwell realises his terrible vulnerability, the knife edge he is balanced on. He is simply a tool of the King - up to this point an indispensable one. He has no friends, supporters or power base of his own. The only things to stop him being cast aside and destroyed, are his wily nature, his self belief and his wits.

“How many men can say, as I must, 'I am a man whose only friend is the King of England'? I have everything, you would think. And yet take Henry away, and I have nothing.”

The ending of this second instalment is quiet, brutal and strangely haunting.
I partly read and partly listened to the audio of Bring up the Bodies and enjoyed the experience massively (The book is impressively narrated by Ben Miles, An actor who played Cromwell in the Royal Shakespeare Co production of Wolf Hall)
Not needing to acclimatise to the writing style or constantly look up historical detail (as I did with Wolf Hall) the story ran smoothly. I was gripped by the intrigue, awed by Mantel’s writing and found it fascinating to be inside Cromwell’s head watching events unfold ‘fly on wall’ style.
The Wolf Hall trilogy is hailed my many as being a monumental literary achievement. With one book still to read, this seems like a fair assessment.
Profile Image for Valeriu Gherghel.
Author 6 books1,291 followers
February 12, 2023
Cu siguranță, mai „ușor de citit”, mai lizibil decît Wolf Hall. Deși faptul de a fi „ușor de citit” e, mai degrabă, un defect decît un merit.

În mai 1536, 95 de nobili onorabili o condamnă pe Anne Boleyn la moarte. Doar unul se abține. Nu va fi ultima dintre grozăviile petrecute sub regele Henric al VIII-lea. Un monarh imatur și nedefinit, asistat de un „secretar principal”, Thomas Cromwell, lipsit de scrupule. În treacăt fie spus, Oliver Cromwell, Lordul Protector de mai tîrziu, a fost unul dintre descendenții lui.

Hilary Mantel (1952 - 22 septembrie 2022) îl descrie pe Thomas ca pe un ins foarte calculat, diabolic de inteligent, mai presus decît toți contemporanii lui prin luciditate și sînge rece. Alții l-au prezentat ca pe un înțelept și un vizionar (religios). Mă îndoiesc că portretul se apropie cît de cît de realitate. Thomas Cromwell a fost la fel de țicnit ca și regele care s-a încrezut orbește în dibăcia lui.

Nu există nici o dovadă că Anne Boleyn a fost vinovată de incest, adulter și de conspirație împotriva regelui. Procesul reginei a fost, desigur, o farsă. Verdictul se știa dinainte, mai era nevoie de probe. Ceea ce uimește rămîne faptul că nimeni nu i-a luat apărarea, unanimitatea condamnării la moarte. Nici un conte n-a crîcnit. Doar mulțimea pare a fi intuit adevărul, cînd a compus un cîntecel batjocoritor: „pe stradă şi în cîrciumi se cîntă balada Regelui Puţămică şi a nevestei lui, vrăjitoarea”.

Talentul narativ al lui Hilary Mantel este evident. El justifică cele 4 steluțe. Cartea, în schimb, nu m-a entuziasmat. Romanul e static, lipsit de acțiune și, fatalmente, previzibil. Ca și Wolf Hall.

Cîteva pasaje:

„Se zice că la procesul lui Thomas More, secretarul principal [Thomas Cromwell] aici de faţă s-a dus la membrii juriului, cînd aceştia şi-au început dezbaterile, iar după ce s-au aşezat, a închis uşa după el şi le-a explicat legea: «Să vă lămuresc», le-a spus el membrilor juriului. «Sarcina voastră este să daţi verdictul de vinovat pentru sir Thomas şi n-o să primiţi nimic de mîncare pînă cînd nu faceţi asta». După care a plecat şi a închis iarăşi uşa după el, a rămas lîngă uşă, cu o secure în mînă, ca nu cumva să se ducă vreunul în căutare de prăjituri; iar lor, fiind londonezi, le pasă cel mai mult de burţile lor, aşa încît, de îndată ce au început să le chiorăie mațele, au răcnit: «Vinovat! Mai vinovat de atîta nu se poate!»“.

Un portret: „Anne Boleyn are acum treizeci şi patru de ani, e o femeie elegantă, atît de elegantă, încît frumuseţea nici nu mai contează. Deşi pe vremuri avea curbe feminine, acum este doar unghiuri. Pe alocuri mai are urme din strălucirea ei întunecată, acum puţin mai ştearsă şi scorojită”.

Pe eșafod: „Cînd femeile o dezbracă pe regină de mantie, îi dezvăluie silueta micuţă, o grămăjoară de oase. Nu pare a fi un duşman puternic al Angliei, dar nu te poţi lua doar după cum arată cineva...”.

„Acum regina este singură, la fel de singură cum a fost toată viaţa. Zice: Isuse, milostivește-te de mine, Hristoase, milostivește-te de mine...”.
Profile Image for Fionnuala.
778 reviews
June 23, 2015
Most people in the English speaking world know the history of Henry VIII from their earliest school days or from the many books, films and TV series that the episode has inspired. Some of us cringe when we hear of yet another fictional version, yet another glittery effort to sensationalise the intrigue of the Tudor court and create even more farfetched scenarios around the details of the wooing and discarding of Henry’s wives. How then can Hilary Mantel’s series be of any interest? I would argue that her treatment of history does not belong in the historical fiction genre but rather in the field of historical analysis. Already, with her account of the French Revolution, A Place of Greater Safety (2006), she proved that she had found a new and unique way to analyse historical events. She combs all the available documentary evidence and from this wealth of detail she builds a living picture of the time and its chief players so that we feel, smell, touch, even inhabit their world.
But she creates dialogue, you will point out, and imagines the players’ thoughts. This is true, but any historian who reads all the documents, all of the letters relating to historical personages can’t avoid interpreting their motivations. Mantel takes that interpretation a step further through dialogue, thereby making the reading of this familiar history, which otherwise holds little surprise or suspense, much more rewarding and entertaining. She succeeds because of her fine writing skills and her ability to choose the most suitable angle from which to view the events, in this case, Thomas Cromwell, the kings secretary; it is as if the reader is perched on his shoulder, seeing everything he sees and privy to about half of his thoughts. And we suspect that the other half of his thoughts are so secret that even he, Thomas Cromwell has little access to them. Mantel reveals him as neither hero nor villain, but simply a man who is good at his job. Being Henry’s secretary is like playing chess; the task is to destroy the opponent and the notion of the opposition of good and evil has no place on this board. Survival is the only rule. Let me give an example: on the first page of Bring Up the Bodies, Cromwell watches a hunting scene involving a pair of hawks:

“Weightless, they glide on the upper currents of air. They pity no one. They answer to no one. Their lives are simple. When they look down they see nothing but their prey, and the borrowed plumes of the hunters: they see a flittering, flinching universe, a universe filled with their dinner. All summer has been like this, a riot of dismemberment, fur and feather flying..."

When we reach the last page of the book, we remember the pair of hawks and we are amazed. Thomas Cromwell has learned from those hawks. He too is silent when he takes his prey.
Profile Image for Annet.
570 reviews722 followers
January 25, 2019
There are no endings. If you think so you are deceived as to their nature. They are all beginnings. Here is one....

The books of Hilary Mantel on Thomas Cromwell are superb, grande. We all know the history of Henry VIII but Wolfhall and Bring Up the Bodies are refreshing, sharp, intelligent, emotional...so much more than 'just' historic tales. I give a slight preference to Wolf Hall, because that book was groundbreaking, a new take on this famous piece of history, seen through the eyes of Thomas Cromwell. However, again Bring up the bodies is sublime and of course tells the dark tale of the fall of Anne Boleyn, fascinating. And Mantel is a great storyteller...

Something happens to Anne then, which later he will not quite understand. She seems to dissolve and slip from their grasp, from Kingston's hands and his, she seems to liquefy and elude them, and when she resolves herself once more into woman's form she is on hands and knees on the cobbles, her head thrown back, wailing.
Fitzwilliam, the Lord Chancellor, even her uncle, steps back; Kingston frowns, his deputy shakes his head, Richard Riche looks stricken. He, Cromwell, takes hold of her - since no one else will do it - and sets her back on her feet. She weighs nothing, and as he lifts her, her wail breaks off, as if her breath had been stopped. Silent, she steadies herself against his shoulder, leans into him: intent, complicit, read for the next thing they will do together, which is kill her.

About Cromwell.... what a fascinating character, re. my review of Wolf Hall, on the one hand a warm family man, on the other hand iron-hard when it comes to dealing with all the so-called 'accomplices' in the Anne Boleyn case and ruthlessly sending a whole group of people to their death by axe... Revenge... or self preservation? or both.... One thing is for sure: Cromwell is always planning ahead. A true chess player. And so far, he does that pretty well. Also very interesting in this book, the developing relation/friendship with Chapuys, ambassador of emperor Charles V.

'All the players are gone', Wriothesley says. 'All four who carried the cardinal to Hell. And also the poor foul Mark who made a ballad of their exploits.' 'All four, he says. 'All five.' 'A gentleman asked me, if this is what Cromwell does to the cardinal's lesser enemies, what will he do by and by to the King himself?

I am now watching the dvd of the BBC series that I was very careful not to touch while I was still reading the book... Very good as well. The part on Thomas More stands out in the series so far... for me.
Highly recommended. I do hope Ms. Mantel continues the Cromwell / Henry VIII story until the very end.... Can't wait for the third book.

Profile Image for Teresa.
Author 8 books781 followers
May 21, 2021
I came to this sequel thinking it could not possibly stand up to the first installment. So, I was prepared to like this book, but not love it as much as I did Wolf Hall. But I was wrong: it does, and I did.

It's one of those works that I lingered over the last pages of, not wanting it to end: the prose is that good. And it installed itself into my psyche. After putting it down at night and as I fell asleep, words, phrases, sentences rolled through my head. (This has happened to me before, but this time it felt different.) And though when I awoke, I couldn't remember any of what I'd dreamed (if dreaming is what it was), I knew the procession of words was due to this book. I also figured this is how the brain of Mantel's Cromwell must work, never stopping, except he does remember all. And when you see the culmination of his remembering all, it is chilling.

Much of what I wrote in my review of Wolf Hall may be inserted here. Like the title of Wolf Hall, this title has a different meaning than you might think (unless you are exceptionally in-the-know). And as I also said about Wolf Hall, this is not your average, run-of-the-mill historical fiction: it is elevated.

As I neared the end, I was starting to become resigned to the fact that I wouldn't be as excited by any particular passage as I had been with the one I quoted in my review of Wolf Hall (and that perhaps I was spoiled by what was so fresh in Wolf Hall) but then I arrived at the final page ...
Profile Image for Henk.
848 reviews
September 25, 2022
Much more fast paced and focused than it’s predecessor, feeling effortless and thrilling at the same time - 5 stars
You can be merry with the king, you can share a joke with him. But as Thomas More used to say, it's like sporting with a tamed lion. You tousle its mane and pull its ears, but all the time you're thinking, those claws, those claws, those claws.

Sometimes I needed to press myself to read on in Wolf Hall; with Bring Up the Bodies I stayed up late just to keep on reading. A breathless joy of a drama to read, with us watching over Cromwell’s shoulder every step of the way.

Long live the king and his first advisor...
But Henry had set up: ‘I can do as it pleases me,’ his monarch said. ‘God would not allow my pleasure to be contrary to his design, nor my designs to be impeded by his will.’ A shadow of cunning had crossed his face.

In Dutch the title of this second installment is The Book Henry and I think that is quite fitting, since everything revolves around him.

Cromwell thinks to himself that his only skill is interpreting and predicting the whims of the king, and daydreams of writing a book on this topic to his son. Also when Henry is hurt in an accident we get to see how much of the power dynamics flow directly from him as absolutist monarch.

Cromwell shows some rare emotion when a duke tells him to stay out of the affairs of his superiors. It does make you wonder why he did not elevate himself into nobility and a bit more stable footing sooner, something the Seymours definitely don’t have any qualms about when their daughter gets into the favour of the king. He is still the pragmatic fixer of Wolf Hall, but can, due to his reputation and clear favour of the king, now rely a bit more on words and suggestion than real life confrontations (I cherish diplomacy. It’s cheap). Towards the end of the novel we also see the fruition of a very long in the making revenge for his first protector Cardinal Wolsey, showing some of his inner life and the abacus of his conscience. Also somewhere one thirds into the book we have Hilary Mantel letting Cromwell think slightly anachronistically about what he wants to achieve for England and the average citizen, raising their living conditions to cement the power of the Tudor monarchy:
It is better not to try people, not to force them to desperation. Make them prosper; out of superfluity they will be generous. Full bellies breed gentle manners. The pinch of famine makes monsters.

What helps him at court is that he can now rely on his meritocratic entourage as a remedy versus the various warring factions; sometimes he felt like a chess player wielding his pieces.
Supporters he needs, when most of his attention is drawn to the showdown with first Catherine of Aragon and then Anne Boleyn.

... while the queens die conveniently, either natural or by a French executioner
The queen is plotting something, I know not what, something devious, something dark, perhaps so dark that she herself does not know what it is, and as yet us only dreaming of it: but I must be quick, I must dream it for her, I shall dream it into being.

Anne shows the predicament of women in her day and age. When they can’t bring an heir they are discarded and they don’t have power from themselves. One of her ladies in waiting inspires Cromwell to think the following: But a young married gentlewoman has no way to help herself. She has no more power than a donkey; all she can hope for is a master who spares the whip.
But the same lady in waiting aids in the downfall of the queen, who has not made herself popular by her sharpness (She opens her lips and out slides the devil’s tail.). A whole A Game of Thrones incest plot is brought against her and we have Henry talking like Donald Trump about Anne (with her just being "too evil") after her fall.

Truth is singular. Its "versions" are mistruths - David Mitchell in Cloud Atlas
What is the nature of the border between truth and lies? It is permeable and blurred because it is planted thick with rumour, confabulation, misunderstandings and twisted tales. Truth can break the gates down, truth can howl in the street; unless truth is pleasing, personable and easy to like, she is condemned to stay whimpering at the back door.

A lot of the book, and the best quotes in it, are about the nature of justice and truth.
Law and judgement are used as an instrument of royal will instead of truth finding (reminiscent of the whole impeachment “trial” we saw only so very recently) by Henry and Cromwell.

Even Thomas Cromwell's own son raises questions concerning this: When Gregory says, ‘Are they guilty?’ he means, ‘Did they do it?’ But when he says, ‘Are they guilty?’ he means, ‘Did the court find them so?’ The lawyer’s world is entire unto itself, the human pared away.
Or a bit more admiringly: I see. It is not so much, who is guilty, as whose guilt is of service to you from Thomas Wriothesley.
Finally Cromwell even thinks to himself:He needs guilty men. So he has found men who are guilty. Though perhaps not guilty as charged, showing some consciousness about the things he need to do for his king.

I left Cromwell and Bring Up The Bodies at the beheading of Anne Boleyn, being totally in awe and feeling very fortunate that the release of The Mirror & the Light is only a few weeks away.
Can't wait to see how Hilary Mantel, no doubt brilliantly, manages to finish this trilogy!
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,566 reviews56.5k followers
September 29, 2020
Bring Up the Bodies (Thomas Cromwell, #2), Hilary Mantel

Bring Up the Bodies is a historical novel by Hilary Mantel and sequel to her award-winning Wolf Hall. It is the second part of a planned trilogy charting the rise and fall of Thomas Cromwell, the powerful minister in the court of King Henry VIII. It is to be followed by The Mirror and the Light.

Bring Up the Bodies begins not long after the conclusion of Wolf Hall. The King and Thomas Cromwell, who is now Master Secretary to the King's Privy Council, are the guests of the Seymour family at their manor house, Wolf Hall. The King shares private moments with Jane Seymour, and begins to fall in love with her.

His present queen, Anne Boleyn, has failed to give him a male heir. Their relationship is a stormy one, sometimes loving and sometimes characterized by angry quarrels. At length, the King tells Cromwell privately, "I cannot live as I have."

Cromwell understands this to mean that the King has tired of a wife who gives him neither peace nor a son and wants his marriage to her ended. Cromwell promises the King he will find a legal way to make this happen.

تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز بیست و یکم ماه ژوئن سال 2014میلادی

عنوان: مجرمان را بیاورید - کتاب دوم؛ نویسنده: هیلاری منتل؛ مترجم: علی اکبر قاضی زاده؛ تهران، تندیس، 1392؛ در 543ص؛ شابک 9786001821011؛ موضوع داستانهای نویسندگان انگلیسی سده 21م

داستانی تاریخی اثر نویسنده انگلیسی، «هیلاری منتل» است، که نخستین بار در سال 2012میلادی منتشر شد؛ این کتاب که دومین جلد از سه‌ گانه «هیلاری منتل» درباره ی قدرت گرفتن و سقوط «تامس کرامول» است

رخدادهای این کتاب که در فاصله تابستان سال 1535میلادی تا تابستان سال 1536میلادی رخ می‌دهند، روایتی داستانی از آغاز علاقه «هنری هشتم» به «جین سیمور»، متهم شدن «آن بولین» به زنا، و نهایتاً اعدام وی، و نقش «کرامول» در این رخدادهاست؛ جلد نخست این مجموعه با عنوان «تالار گرگ» منتشر شده، و جلد سوم از سه‌ گانه «آینه و نور» نام دارد، که تاکنون در ایران منتشر نشده است

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 07/07/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for TBV (on hiatus).
308 reviews75 followers
June 3, 2020
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Historical fiction at its best, Bring up the Bodies is a worthy winner of the Man Booker Prize. It is well researched and very well written. Once I re-attuned myself to the extensive use of the pronoun ‘he’ referring to Thomas Cromwell, it was a most pleasurable read. The subtle humour and wily Cromwell’s wit were particularly enjoyable, and I look forward to reading The Mirror and the Light, the recently published final instalment of this trilogy.

“This book is of course not about Anne Boleyn or about Henry VIII, but about the career of Thomas Cromwell, who is still in need of attention from biographers. Meanwhile, Mr Secretary remains sleek, plump and densely inaccessible, like a choice plum in a Christmas pie; but I hope to continue my efforts to dig him out.” [Hilary Mantel - Author’s Note, Bring up the Bodies]
Profile Image for Melindam.
631 reviews273 followers
May 15, 2023
“Rafe asks him, could the king's freedom be obtained, sir, with more economy of means? Less bloodshed?
Look, he says: once you have exhausted the process of negotiation and compromise, one you have fixed on the destruction of an enemy, that destruction must be swift and it must be perfect. Before you even glance in his direction, you should have his name on a warrant, the ports blocked, his wife and friends bought, his heir under your protection, his money in your strong room and his dog running to your whistle. Before he wakes in the morning, you should have the axe in your hand.”

“Your love of glory must conquer your will to survive; or why fight at all? Why not be a smith, a brewer, a wool merchant? Why are you in the contest, if not to win, and if not to win, then to die?”

Meet again Thomas Cromwell, puppet-master, self-made man & Renaissance Godfather.
He is THE trouble-shooter & fixer for Henry VIII and Tudor Celebrities whether it comes to marriage, politics, economy, religion or anything else they require.

You want the Bible translated into English? Or dissolve the monasteries to get money? - Cromwell is your man.
You want another divorce? With clear conscience? No problem, if Cromwell is on your side...

The more I think about him, the more he, as a character, reminds me of Vito Corleone from the The Godfather (The Godfather, #1) by Mario Puzo .

As Don Corleone said: “The lawyer with the briefcase can steal more money than the man with the gun.” And “Never hate your enemies. It affects your judgment.” As well as “Great men are not born great, they grow great . . .”
And doesn't Cromwell KNOW ALL THAT! :)

Mantel's story is amazing, going from strength to strength. No 2nd-book syndrome here, for sure. Thomas Cromwell continues to fascinate me. There is something in Hilary Mantel's style that makes these novels read more like magical realism than historical fiction, it has the power to bewitch and to suck you in her Tudor world completely.
Profile Image for Chavelli Sulikowska.
226 reviews219 followers
October 5, 2021
I have a theory. Thomas Cromwell may be the greatest strategist and political mastermind of all time. Such a clever follow on from Wolf Hall, maybe even better. The suspense (though we know the macabre outcome from the start) is no less nail bitingly thrilling. I positively held my breath and fought off squeamishness in parts.

Cromwell, Cremeul, dear old 'crumb' has run away with Mantel's pen again. As he controls the events of Henry's increasinly unraveling court, so to he seems to control the very fabric of the Mantel's narrative, leading us with his reknowned confidence to a bloody end.

Less action than Wolf Hall, but superior suspense. Pardon the pun, but us readers, along with the poor condemned are literally left hanging until the final pages, albeit with a mounting sense of doom.

Anne's characterisation is as captivating as Cromwell's - despite her imminment death, it is in this book that she really comes to life as Mantel reveals hints of what may be her real nature. Neverthess, she remains a slippery character - as we oscillate between vile disregard and sorrowful pity for this little 'bird' who seems at times to have Henry quivering in his boots, the nobility and clergy running for cover and the Pope in a red hot rage!

What I found most interseting, is the stratagem of Cromwell - was this trial for real? where was the hard evidence upon which Cromwell always places such weight? did he lead several potentially innocent men to their knowling deaths deliberately, along with a fallen Queen, to save his own skin? If so, he had better watch his back as a new wave of nobles jostle for a place at Henry's coat tails...

Much excited about book three, but I think I need a mini literary vacation somewhere sunny and silly to 'decompress...' Welcome any thoughts on this book, and the next (without any spoilers please!)
Profile Image for Cheryl.
329 reviews270 followers
June 1, 2012
Aaaahhh. Fine, fine, fine. The final last paragraph -- perfect.
Cromwell now to me will always be "he, Cromwell". This little stylistic flourish did add clarity, compared with Wolf Hall. To purposefully use just "he" in the first book was at times confusing, forcing one to stop and step out of the story to regain one's bearings. Sort of like breaking the fourth wall -- and perhaps that was the point then, a metafictional technique? but it was too intrusive.
This book just sailed on from Wolf Hall. Immersion was swift and total.
Another Booker winner, I hope.
Profile Image for Maria Espadinha.
1,014 reviews363 followers
September 11, 2021
O Declínio de Ana Bolena

Em tempos idos que não deixaram saudades, uma rainha incapaz de gerar um filho varão, via a sua vida condenada — os homens governavam e as mulheres pariam e ai daquela que não parisse rebentos machos. Infelizmente para ela, Ana Bolena incluía-se nessa faixa de mulheres, o que lhe valeu o crescente desinteresse do seu cruel esposo. Ana era agora um empecilho, e... urgia, a qualquer preço, colocar um ponto final num casamento que se tornara incomodo, pois já havia uma próxima vítima em vista. Restava, agora, a Cromwell, engendrar um plano audacioso...

Determinado a levar a bom termo a missão de que fora incumbido (Henrique VIII era um monarca que convinha, de todo, não desapontar), Cromwell não olha a meios que justifiquem fins — busca rumores capazes de arremessar com a rainha para o lodo, e... facilmente os encontra, pois a má-língua grassava pela corte do despótico monarca, contando com numerosos praticantes. Da sua investigação resultou uma conspiração fatal para Ana Bolena, e... Cromwell pôde dar por cumprida a sua missão!

Em Wolf Hall assistimos à brilhante escalada de Thomas Cromwell, que, do nada, chega aos píncaros!
O Livro Negro narra um percurso inverso: o dramático declínio de Ana Bolena, que, do apogeu, se despenha nas trevas!
Wolf Hall é bom e o Livro Negro é excelente!!!
Profile Image for Diane.
1,080 reviews2,652 followers
February 19, 2017
I loved this second book about Thomas Cromwell and King Henry VIII even more than the first one!

I started reading Bring Up the Bodies as soon as I finished Wolf Hall, and I've enjoyed this series so much I'm excited for Mantel's third volume, whenever it's published.

While Wolf Hall focused on the rise of Anne Boleyn and how she became Queen of England, Bring Up the Bodies is about how the King decides to leave Anne when she can't give him a son, and her subsequent downfall and execution. The story of her trial and beheading has been told many times, but I loved how Mantel chose to show us the scenes from Cromwell's perspective, and how he helped manipulate the proceedings. Cromwell even maneuvered to help the King find his next wife, Jane Seymour.

This second book had good pacing and flowed more freely than the first one, perhaps because the first one had numerous flashbacks to Cromwell's childhood and the back-and-forth with Cardinal Wolsey. Taken together, they are a masterpiece of historical fiction, and I highly recommend this series.

Favorite Quotes
"You can be merry with the king, you can share a joke with him. But as Thomas More used to say, it's like sporting with a tamed lion. You tousle its mane and pull its ears, but all the time you're thinking, those claws, those claws, those claws."

"What is the nature of the border between truth and lies? It is permeable and blurred because it is planted thick with rumour, confabulation, misunderstandings and twisted tales. Truth can break the gates down, truth can howl in the street; unless truth is pleasing, personable and easy to like, she is condemned to stay whimpering at the back door."

"He needs guilty men. So he has found men who are guilty. Though perhaps not guilty as charged."

"Sometimes peace looks like war, you cannot tell them apart."

"Erasmus says that you should praise a ruler even for qualities he does not have. For the flattery gives him to think. And the qualities he presently lacks, he might go to work on them."

"How many men can say, as I must, 'I am a man whose only friend is the King of England'? I have everything, you would think. And yet take Henry away, and I have nothing."

"We are not priests. We don’t want their sort of confession. We are lawyers. We want the truth little by little and only those parts of it we can use."

"You have always regarded women as disposable, my lord, and you cannot complain if in the end they think the same of you."

"Who can understand the lives of women?"
Profile Image for Brian.
688 reviews335 followers
February 9, 2016
In "Bring up the Bodies" Hilary Mantel has written a shorter and tighter novel than its predecessor "Wolf Hall", and it is just as good! I tore through the book in a few days, and I am eagerly anticipating the third and final installment in the series.
Most of the joy of "Bring up the Bodies" is Mantel's lovely writing, and her masterful creation and depiction of the series' main protagonist Thomas Cromwell. The story is told mainly from a third person perspective, but it is an omniscient narrator who sometimes enters the minds and thoughts of the characters, so we occasionally get a first person point of view. This stylistic choice further adds to the novel's strengths as a well written text.
As already mentioned, one of the main pleasures of this book is Mantel's creation of Cromwell, a historical figure we actually don't know a lot about. Her interpretation of this man is wonderful and full bodied on so many levels. Cromwell's dry humor and accurate/insightful observations about others and our human natures are one of the book's main joys. He is an intellectual giant among worms, and he enjoys himself immensely. His almost perverse pleasure at ensnaring into the web of Anne Boleyn's downfall the four noblemen who mocked his late beloved mentor Cardinal Wolsey in a play years before is an excellent plot contrivance that Mantel's creates to show that Cromwell is capable of pettiness, and is also quite dangerous. Mantel deploys considerable skill in the four scenes where Cromwell entraps each of these four men into his web. He is the perfect Machiavellian, doing a service for his king, and himself at the same time. Another breathtaking moment in the text (among many) is the excellent scene where Cromwell tricks Mark Smeaton (a dandy musician) into "confessing" adultery with Queen Anne. It is simply riveting writing.
In "Bring up the Bodies" Mantel shows Cromwell growing into his power, and thus he is not nearly as likable as he was in "Wolf Hall". He is becoming a lot like the people he detests. Mantel is obviously building up his ego and hubris for his downfall, which I assume is the focus of the third/ final book. There are so many ironic and foreshadowing lines that hint at Cromwell's own end that I kept thinking as I read, "you reap what you sow". If you know the actual history of these events you will catch these references and it will increase your enjoyment of the book. Pride is such a huge theme in this text, and it trips up so many people that one would be a dunce not to see the larger warnings about us as individuals that we can take from the novel.
In short, Mantel's writing is fluid and lyrical and she is the rare storyteller who is also an excellent writer. Although "Bring up the Bodies" is less episodic and quicker to read than "Wolf Hall" it is no less enjoyable, and I can't wait for the next one!
Profile Image for Maria Espadinha.
1,014 reviews363 followers
April 1, 2022
Anne poor Anne

Incapable of generating a male heir to the throne of England, Anne Boleyn lost her special place in the king's heart (assuming he had one). She was now perfectly disposable and Cromwell was assigned to the dirty job.

Since it was not advisable to disappoint his majesty, Cromwell was determined to lead his mission to a happy ending (happy ending for Henry VIII, definitely not for Anne). Hence, he was not much concerned with scruples, and... as a result, he created a “slightly” dirty case against Anne which, of course, satisfied the King’s purpose!

In a beautiful eloquent prose, Bring up the Bodies tells the sad story of Anne Boleyn’s decline 😢🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟
Profile Image for Heidi The Reader.
1,376 reviews1,431 followers
June 3, 2018
Hilary Mantel's brilliant trilogy about Thomas Cromwell continues with Bring Up the Bodies.

Cromwell is the right-hand man of Henry the VIII. His masterful manipulation of people and circumstances to make the world as Henry wants it has brought Cromwell wealth and power.

Getting Anne Boleyn on the throne was a struggle. Now he has to get her off of it without losing his own head in the process.

Mantel doesn't just tell history, she makes it come alive.

In one scene I can't get out of my head: Henry has a temper tantrum because of the Spanish ambassador's continued disrespect towards his new wife, Anne, and the repeated requests from the Spanish crown for money owed. The king blows his top at Cromwell and screams in his face.

He says he believes Cromwell has always manipulated him and laughed at him. But he is king and he will not be steered.

And, even though I knew the history, I thought for a moment Cromwell was going to be taken to the Tower in that instant.

Instead, he quietly apologizes to the king and dismisses himself, then goes to a different room to take a drink. With shaking hands, Cromwell spills a drop of the wine on himself and sits there, contemplating the small stain on his shirt.

And I said to myself, "Mantel is a genius."

In that passage, it was as if I was in that room, living the moment. She makes you forget you're reading a book. It's so immersive. It's almost magical.

Cromwell's efforts to collect evidence against Queen Anne fills much of this book. As he tightens his net around her, you can almost feel it tighten around yourself.

Cromwell jokes with his sworn men to ease some of the tension, but it is always there, buzzing beneath the surface.

Highly recommended for historical fiction readers. Bring Up the Bodies is one of the best books I've read this year.
Profile Image for Darwin8u.
1,559 reviews8,686 followers
December 9, 2015
“The things you think are the disasters in your life are not the disasters really. Almost anything can be turned around: out of every ditch, a path, if you can only see it.”
― Hilary Mantel, Bring Up the Bodies


100 pages in and it is hard to miss that this isn't just a nominal sequel to Wolf Hall, but rather the first book's logical annex. There is no drop-off in complexity. No laxity of language. Again, Mantel manages to shift form, change structure and reinvent her style. She even manages to give the character of Thomas Cromwell more depth and complexity, a feat which seemed near impossible after finishing Wolf Hall.

Anyway, Mantel is one of the finest writers of English prose living. Each sentence is crafted like a unique piece in an Italian inlaid music box. She has a purpose for each comma, and makes words seem to dance, fall and recover right off the page. She pulls the history out of the history and has written Tower interrogations so deft and chilling one is left afraid of both language and the law. As readers we watch Cromwell destroy men, overthrow queens and change history with words, paper and a sharp understanding of men's motives. We aren't afraid because Cromwell is a monster, but because he is so heroically human.
Profile Image for Eric Anderson.
665 reviews3,229 followers
August 27, 2020
Having read “Wolf Hall” for the first time recently, I wanted to keep up the momentum by jumping right into reading the second book in Mantel’s trilogy on Cromwell. Like I said with the first novel, it’s impressive how the author creates such a suspenseful narrative despite my being aware of what was going to happen because it’s based on history. Having dealt with the sprawling mechanics of the events leading to Henry’s marriage with Catherine of Aragon being invalidated and England’s break from the authority of the Pope in the first novel, “Bring Up the Bodies” does feel like a more concentrated story because it deals almost solely with the downfall of Anne Boleyn. It’s clear she’s fated from the beginning of the book as Henry is casting around for excuses to dispose of her. But, again, I felt gripped wanting to know how events would unfold through Cromwell’s political manoeuvring. It’s both compelling and horrific seeing how his schemes lead some people to become entrapped in a bloody fate or compromise those close to them to save their own skin. Mantel is brilliant at dramatizing how, as the proverbial saying goes, ‘power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely’.

Yet Cromwell also emerges as such a fascinatingly complex figure in her portrayal of him as a man of committed Christian faith who also feels such a strong loyalty to England and the King. Henry’s edicts mean these two convictions should be at odds with each other but Cromwell must act as if they are not. He must also rewrite history as they go in order to keep pace with Henry’s tyrannical desires: “Now our requirements have changed and the facts have changed behind us.” As seen in the hyperbolic pronouncements of world leaders in recent years, facts are something which people in positions of great power believe they can simply create despite contrary evidence.

Read my full review of Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel on LonesomeReader
Profile Image for Roman Clodia.
2,424 reviews2,492 followers
February 5, 2020
'All the players gone,' Wriothesley says. 'All four who carried the cardinal to Hell; and also the poor fool Mark who made a ballad of their exploits.'

In this second chilling volume of her Cromwell trilogy, Mantel shows just how deep her 'hero' can be and how his emotions linger and fester beneath the cool, efficient, surface. The cardinal may have been dragged down a whole book ago but, for Cromwell, he's not forgotten - and the four young men who once made entertainment of his death to the delight of the court learn that Cromwell doesn't forgive. It's like this whole book is an expansion of the moment with Thomas More in volume 1 when Cromwell thinks that More might have forgotten him, but that he's never forgotten More.

In lots of ways this is a tighter book than the first: it's shaped by the arc of Anne Boleyn, so there are no surprises in terms of events. The sharpness is still here, but some of the archness has dissipated making this better in tone for me.

Anyone who knows the original sources can marvel at how Mantel has integrated and adopted them in all their contradictory, rumour-filled biases and contraventions. By making Cromwell her focus, she offers up another reading of this strange, wayward episode in English history and, to her credit, makes her fictional proposal hang together.

Most startling for me are the parallels that are subtly suggested between Anne Boleyn and Cromwell himself - and as he acknowledges towards the end that his fleshly heart has been replaced by cold stone, we can see that her fall is the prelude to his, that his successes, his plottings, his expediencies can only point one way forward. I'm very much looking forward to the final volume.
Profile Image for Tim.
197 reviews86 followers
April 12, 2016
Of course if you loved Wolf Hall you’re going to love this too. It’s slightly different in tone and texture to Wolf Hall though. Less richly dense and intimate; quicker paced, covering as it does a much smaller time frame than Wolf Hall. I read somewhere Mantel heeded criticism of her excessive and confusing use of the pronoun he in Wolf Hall. And it’s true she is much clearer here, always referring to Cromwell by name whenever there might be confusion. What this does is remove some of the sympathetic intimacy we feel for Cromwell. In fact, you realise what a stroke of genius it was in Wolf Hall. For the first time there are moments when we see him as something of a calculating despot, we begin to have an inkling of why he was hated so much. We see the Michael Corleone in him. It’s fascinating that all the men eventually accused of sleeping with Ann are men against whom he has a long standing personal grudge. Men who were involved in Wolsey’s fall from grace. Cromwell becomes like Wolsey’s avenging angel, as if it’s been Wolsey all along he’s been working for and not the King. Reading between the lines you feel Mantel thinks these men were guilty but not guilty as charged. In other words, they all probably mocked the king while flirting with Ann but probably didn’t sleep with her. I’ve watched a few programmes asking the question whether or not Ann was guilty as charged. Those who are convinced she was innocent usually refer to her last will and testament in which she denied all charges. They say she would not lie, knowing she was about to die and about to meet her maker, that she would not risk an eternity in Hell by making a false statement. However Mantel states in the afterword that Ann’s testament didn’t survive and what we have is a fiction composed years later. Posing the likelihood that biographers, no less than novelists, take huge liberties with the truth.

I can’t wait for the third and final instalment of Cromwell’s story.
Profile Image for Andrei Bădică.
371 reviews152 followers
April 10, 2018
"Când se gândește la cum era el pe atunci, n-are nevoie să fie indulgent, dar nici vinovat nu se simte. Dintotdeauna a făcut tot ce-a fost în stare pentru a supraviețui, iar dacă a apreciat uneori de ce anume era nevoie pentru asta... ei bine, asta înseamnă să fii tânăr."
"Catastrofele din viața ta nu sunt de fapt catastrofe. Poți să profiți de aproape orice: de faptul că ai căzut într-un șanț, de orice potecă, doar s-o poți vedea."
Profile Image for Iset.
665 reviews473 followers
November 4, 2019
I jumped straight into Bring Up the Bodies after finishing Wolf Hall, such was my eagerness to dive back into Hilary Mantel’s Tudor England and, of course, sit on the shoulder of the inscrutable, enigmatic Thomas Cromwell as he led us through it. I’m afraid this review is much shorter than my review of Wolf Hall, because many of the points still apply from one to the other.

Mantel still prefers to overuse her third person pronouns rather than use her main character’s name, which in the previous book could get considerably confusing, however, towards the end of Wolf Hall she begins using “he, Cromwell…” a lot more, and it’s that form that she utilises in Bring Up the Bodies. It admittedly clears up a lot of potential confusion, but I stick by what I said in my review of Wolf Hall, that it renders the “he” altogether redundant and it’s a clumsy solution compared to the simplicity and clarity of just using a character’s name where appropriate!

Mantel’s strength is still her expansive knowledge of the English language, her storycraft in creating a compelling plot, and her attention to detail which bring the book alive. This attention to detail creates subtle characterisations, full of their own peculiar eccentricities and unique personalities. Mantel has show, don’t tell down to a fine art, letting her characters’ personalities grow and build up organically through their actions and speech – and, of course, Thomas Cromwell’s sardonic observations about them. My one disappointment with the characterisations has been that I think they could be even stronger, and that I feel Mantel adheres to stock stereotypes of the Boleyn family too much. Mantel had previously tempered her characterisations of the Boleyns by giving them a good dose of ambiguity, but now, in order to gear up for the big showdown, certain negative traits are exacerbated to adhere more closely to stereotype – such as Jane Parker’s unfeeling cruelty, and Anne Boleyn’s self-absorbed haughtiness. Mantel also omits the dispute between Anne and Cromwell over what should be done with the proceeds of the dissolution of the monasteries.

Other than that, I felt that Mantel created the downfall fairly well, getting into the nooks and crannies of just how it unfolded, dispelling certain myths about what happened, and, most importantly, leaving the truth ambiguous for the reader. Cromwell masterfully constructs his case against the Boleyns through hearsay and implication, and through his machinations weaves enough doubt to make it plausible that some of the other characters believe the truth of it. However, he never has any direct proof, and, tellingly, Cromwell himself studiously avoids answering a question put to him by his son about whether the people he arrests actually did what they are accused of. A whole dark undercurrent permeates proceedings, in which one feels that the truth is being meticulously suppressed, the accused damned if they speak out by Cromwell’s sharp wit turning against them anything that they might say. Though, I would have wished for the Boleyn clan to have been characterised with more subtlety and humanity. Two scenes were particularly striking – Cromwell’s conversation with Thomas Wyatt about justice in the realm, and Cromwell’s realisation of some change that has happened to him after all this. I thought this was a seminal moment, and moving – the spider caught in his own web; having constructed this mirage of half-truths and circumstantial interpretations, Cromwell can no longer cut to the truth like he used to, and finds his certainty obscured by the miasma he himself has created in the new climate in England.

Bring Up the Bodies segues between the tarnished glitter of the treacherous court and the busy day-to-day life of London, creating characters who inhabit these worlds who break out of the two-dimensional confines of the page and appear three-dimensional in the mind’s eye. Lacking in some points, particularly the technical construction and the portrayal of the Boleyns, but otherwise written with skill, richly detailed, and a compelling plot that drove me onwards towards the dreadful conclusion.

6 out of 10
Profile Image for Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂ .
796 reviews582 followers
September 26, 2018

"You perceive it is an old song that I am trying to rework. What pairs with blue? Apart from 'new'?"

I had a little bit of trouble getting into Cromwell's head in this book, the second in Mantel's Oliver Cromwell trilogy, but once I was there I was there. What the book really successfully replicated was the quite bewildering speed Henry VIII went off Anne Boleyn. One Tudor minute he was so obsessed with Anne that he was prepared to risk his crown and reputation, the next he could hardly stand the sight of her. Of course he needed a male heir, but there was more to it than that & Mantel recounts this well.

So now we have to wait patiently for the final installment. The latest release time I could find is some time in 2019.

Profile Image for Heather.
192 reviews3 followers
July 13, 2012
I feel stingy giving this only 3 stars, because it is a really excellent book in its own right. But it fell short of the wondrous originality and complexity of Wolf Hall... I missed the mythic-mystic dimension and the sense of a society on the cusp between "medieval" and "Renaissance". Thomas Cromwell doesn't have the same rich character arc that he had in Wolf Hall: he's on top and he stays on top. And King Henry doesn't struggle against the same array of opponents in this book, he just decides to do what most everybody has been wanting him to do all along.

Above all I think I was frustrated that Mantel was so scrupulous about the historical record. She never takes a stand on any of the charges against Anne: did Anne ever love Henry? was she capable of love, or only ambition? did she sleep with other men? or was it just spiteful gossip exaggerating her narcissistic need for male attention? what happened between Anne and her brother? between her and Percy? between her and Mark Smeaton? Because the whole story is told from Cromwell's point of view, we can't know what Anne did, and to Cromwell it doesn't matter - it only matters what he can convict her of. So there's a coldness to it. I like that this isn't a sentimental "Anne of the 1000 Days" version, but it overcompensates and keeps Anne at too much of a distance.

Honestly I wanted some more critical perspective on Anne's misery... even though she was a narcissistic bitch and a schemer, she was also a tragic vic tim of (dare I say) patriarchy... all her beauty and cunning and intelligence and ambition weren't worth a hill of beans when her body failed to produce a son. That she thought she had lots of cards in the game, but really only the ONE card mattered, and she didn't have it so she lost.

I would have liked a richer and more imaginative portrait of Jane Seymour, too... Mantel presents her as almost asexual, which is fascinating, I've never seen it in a historical novel! But again, she is remote and pretty inscrutable to Cromwell, so she remains remote to the reader as well.
Profile Image for Michael.
Author 2 books1,340 followers
May 14, 2017
I began this with tremendous trepidation. I loved Wolf Hall and kept wondering if this could possibly hold up, thinking of all those times when a sequel didn't. For those of you wondering that too, let me assure you: this is a great novel in its own right, and a more-than-worthy sequel. Mantel is again at the top of her game, writing with the same incisiveness and the same narrative drive that made Wolf Hall so fantastic. You know from the opening pages that you're in the perfect hands to tell this story. Count me in to the Hilary Mantel fan club.
Profile Image for K.D. Absolutely.
1,820 reviews
January 1, 2013
I rarely give 5 stars but I can't help it with this 2012 Booker winner. I am still to read the last year's other Booker finalists but this book is one of the best among my recent reads. Hence, I think the Booker jurors made the right pick last year. Also, those friends of mine who already read this book and gave a 4 or 5 stars also made the right verdict: this book is exceptionally great!

Prior to this book's prequel, Wolf Hall (4 stars), I knew nothing about Henry VIII. I am a Filipino who had my early school years in an island in the Pacific. Our teachers did not bother telling us the stories about British royalties. So, when I read Hilary Mantel's "Wolf Hall" two months ago, at first I struggled understanding that book's historical backdrop and I found myself Googling so many names and places. However, in the end, it was worth the effort. So, now I had an easier time reading Bring Up the Bodies. In fact, I resumed reading this two days ago and since we had a 4-day weekend (last day is today) due to the holidays, I had a busy New Year that I used mainly for finishing this book.

The book is the continuation of Henry VIII's life story in the eyes of his chief minister Thomas Cromwell. If "Wolf Hall" is about dumping of Lady Catherine and Henry VIII's marriage to Anne Boleyn, "Bring Up the Bodies" is about the dumping of Anne Boleyn as the king has now a new apple of his eyes, the beautiful Jane Seymour. That seems like a simple retelling of a story contained in any history books about Tudors, right? Answer: yes. However, Hilary Mantel is a genius in storytelling. She researched thoroughly the many writings about the Tudors and life in England during that time. She meticulously injected what could have been the appropriate dialogues in the many delicate scenes. More importantly, her prose is extremely delightful to read. Reading the book is like ascending to heaven, it is like being blown away by sweeping wind while angels are sounding their trumpets and plucking the strings of their harps. I have never seen this kind of beautiful prose in any recent read or not even in any of the past Booker winning books. Hilary Mantel is one hell of a genius writer.

What I particularly enjoyed was how Mantel made her characters interesting by baring to us both their internal struggles as well as their external issues. She seems do this by first second-guessing how her characters would react to a given situation. Then she followed this with the character giving us his/her stream-of-consciousness narration to reveal his/her inner thoughts. Mantel finished this off by allowing her characters in that situation their acute observations and incisive remarks. This cycle seems to have worked wonderfully by making each of her major characters like we are watching them in a 3D or IMAX theater. This style also made this historical fiction come alive by making the reader an active participant in the story. There were times when I'd like the character to tell the truth or to lie but the character did the opposite and so I was disappointed but later I saw the point for his/her decision.

This book is just wonderful. My first book finished this year. What a way to start 2013! What a book!
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