Paul's Reviews > Bring Up the Bodies

Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
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4.5 stars
It’s a while since I read Wolf Hall, but Mantel does a good job of filling in gaps in my memory. This holds the attention as much as the first one does, but is narrower in focus, covering less than a year. Cromwell is as ruthless and manipulative as ever; but it is fascinating seeing things from his point of view. Being a bit of an old Tudor hack from my undergraduate days these books are a fascinating take on an era I know fairly well. For centuries Cromwell had been dismissed as just another political hack and it wasn’t until Geoffrey Elton’s revision of him in the 1950s that his significance in driving forward the English Reformation was articulated. Cromwell, it has been argued, was the developer of modern bureaucratic government (he has a good deal to answer for then!). Whilst I am no fan of Elton’s Rankian and empirical view of history, I think he was right about the importance of Cromwell.
Mantel’s genius is the way she makes Cromwell understandable, even sympathetic. She fills in the historical gaps in Cromwell’s life and in the historical accounts in an intelligent and believable way. The brutality of daily life and the religious tension is well captured. The prose is wonderful, clever and very funny. She puts some depth into those who surround Cromwell. Henry himself remains a little elusive and unpredictable and Cromwell knows he is always walking on a tightrope dealing with him. It is a fascinating analysis of the use and misuse of power; but most of all a great story, well told. Historical fiction at its best.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
December 1, 2014 – Shelved
December 1, 2014 – Shelved as: historical-fiction
December 1, 2014 – Finished Reading

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message 1: by Glenn (new)

Glenn Russell It is a fascinating analysis of the use and misuse of power; but most of all a great story, well told. Historical fiction at its best. --------- Thanks, Henry. Yes, when historical fiction works, it is great.


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