Brian's Reviews > Bring Up the Bodies

Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
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it was amazing

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!
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
February 9, 2016 – Shelved

Comments Showing 1-24 of 24 (24 new)

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message 1: by Julie (new)

Julie Brian,
I still have PTSD from reading her memoir, but I will give this a try some day. Thanks for helping to heal the trauma with your five stars!


Brian I did not even know she had a memoir. The only books I have read of hers have been the two in this series.

Julie wrote: "Brian,
I still have PTSD from reading her memoir, but I will give this a try some day. Thanks for helping to heal the trauma with your five stars!"



message 3: by Julie (new)

Julie Yes. Giving Up the Ghost. I think an actual ghost moved in to my house, after I read it. Disturbing.


Brian Hmm...
I think I will skip that one. You don't seem to be selling it. :)

Julie wrote: "Yes. Giving Up the Ghost. I think an actual ghost moved in to my house, after I read it. Disturbing."


message 5: by Julie (new)

Julie Ha! Well, I will say this. . . she knows how to write effectively. . . it was just way too stream-of-consciousness to me, and perhaps written from an actual asylum? (Not that there's anything wrong with that. . . )


Charlotte Guzman Loved your review Brian. So glad you enjoyed the book. I'm looking forward to her 3rd and final book in this series to see how the author presents Cromwell's downfall. Love this period in history and the Tudor stories.


Brian Thanks Charlotte and me too. Love this period in history also. Can't wait for the finale. It has been a long time coming!

Charlotte wrote: "Loved your review Brian. So glad you enjoyed the book. I'm looking forward to her 3rd and final book in this series to see how the author presents Cromwell's downfall. Love this period in history a..."


message 8: by Seth (new)

Seth He is an intellectual giant among worms, and he enjoys himself immensely.

Brian, this is without a doubt the best line I've read today.


message 9: by Michael (new) - added it

Michael Great review, Brian! I’ve somehow never read a Mantel novel, but I’ll have to add this to my TBR list.


Brian Seth, I am sure it heard it somewhere else. But thanks. I almost feel like this is something the television character "Frasier" would have said.

Seth wrote: "He is an intellectual giant among worms, and he enjoys himself immensely.

Brian, this is without a doubt the best line I've read today."



Brian Thanks Michael. She is a dense writer, there is a lot of stuff packed into her sentences, almost like poetry. But I have enjoyed the 2 novels of hers I have read so far.

Michael wrote: "Great review, Brian! I’ve somehow never read a Mantel novel, but I’ll have to add this to my TBR list."


message 12: by Janet (new)

Janet I just think of Cromwell's portrait by Holbein compared to that of Thomas More. They hang in the same room in the Frick Collection in New York. They tell you plenty.


*TUDOR^QUEEN* Excellent review 👑


Brian I will have to check that out next time I am in NYC. Thanks for the rec!

Janet wrote: "I just think of Cromwell's portrait by Holbein compared to that of Thomas More. They hang in the same room in the Frick Collection in New York. They tell you plenty."


Brian Thank you!

*TUDOR^QUEEN* wrote: "Excellent review 👑"


Inkspill helpful review - I'm working up to reading this next year after reading Wolf Hall. I tried reading the latter and I was completely lost and so will try again next year - might need a huge vat of coffee but I'm gonna try :)


Brian It took me a while to get into "Wolf Hall" too. It is not for everyone. Varied tastes and all. If I did not love that period I am not sure I would like this series.

Inkspill wrote: "helpful review - I'm working up to reading this next year after reading Wolf Hall. I tried reading the latter and I was completely lost and so will try again next year - might need a huge vat of co..."


Inkspill Brian wrote: "It took me a while to get into "Wolf Hall" too. It is not for everyone. Varied tastes and all. If I did not love that period I am not sure I would like this series.

Inkspill wrote: "helpful review..."


Good to know I'm not alone in this.

It's a period of history that's really romanced don't you think? Maybe it's to do with Henry 8th and how he had six wives / how he created turmoil with the Reformation.

I do like how Mantel finds a different angle to talk about this period, and from the pov of an ambitious social climber but it was tough, maybe I'll have better luck with it this time round - well, I'm going to hope


Brian I agree it has been "romanced", and I think the Cromwell POV was one of my favorite things abut the text. His social class gets almost no attention in the historical fiction literature about that period.
Hoping for you! But having said that, someone not liking this book is more than valid also.
Good luck! :)

Inkspill wrote: "Brian wrote: "It took me a while to get into "Wolf Hall" too. It is not for everyone. Varied tastes and all. If I did not love that period I am not sure I would like this series.

Inkspill wrote: "..."



Inkspill Brian wrote: "I agree it has been "romanced", and I think the Cromwell POV was one of my favorite things abut the text. His social class gets almost no attention in the historical fiction literature about that p..."

Thanks for the Luck - I'm going to need it, as I'll read A Place of Greater Safety before the other two. Not sure if this is a good idea as the style is similar (from memory, but it has been a while, not all her books are written in this style).

Yep, I'm definitely going to need that luck :)


Brian "A Place of Greater Safety" is on my "to read" list. Let me know what you think of it please.

Inkspill wrote: "Brian wrote: "I agree it has been "romanced", and I think the Cromwell POV was one of my favorite things abut the text. His social class gets almost no attention in the historical fiction literatur..."


Inkspill Brian wrote: ""A Place of Greater Safety" is on my "to read" list. Let me know what you think of it please.

Inkspill wrote: "Brian wrote: "I agree it has been "romanced", and I think the Cromwell POV was one of..."


Will do, even if I don't manage to finish it - what have I set myself up for? Ha Ha.

BTW, in a previous post you said:

Brian wrote: "His social class gets almost no attention in the historical fiction literature about that period."

I didn't get to the end of Wolf Hall last time but now that you mention it - yeah, that's true.

I found Mantel's style (the pauses, the innuendos) did not tranlate well for the screen, Wolf Hall tv mini series (BBC production I think), but the sets and cinematography were really neat.


Brian I have not seen it yet. Keep meaning to.


Inkspill Brian wrote: "I have not seen it yet. Keep meaning to."

If you do, it will be interesting to know what you think. It's a good cast and the sets are amazing.


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