Jennifer (aka EM)'s Reviews > Bring Up the Bodies

Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
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May 20, 2012

it was amazing
Read from October 11 to 21, 2012

Too many of my friends here on GR and elsewhere have not yet read this, but are planning to, so I won't do much of a review - at least not yet.

But I have to say, the writing in this is even better than in Wolf Hall. Mantel's metaphors and similes are beyond apt, cutting and character-revealing and entirely original; when she is lyrical, her prose positively takes flight although she has a steady, controlled hand on it; her dialogue is electric. Her plotting, her pace, her tone -- every single aspect of this is impeccable.

I won't quote anything, because you have to read it and have the thing unfurl before you page by page.

So dark - so dark, and cynical, and sad. Here is Cromwell, whom we all admired in Wolf Hall, carrying out his duty to King Henry, and working his own agenda. In Wolf Hall, Mantel shows us a man with a vision, admirable audacity, and an even-tempered fairness whose opportunism was used in the service of higher goals. Here, she strips off our rose-coloured glasses and shows Cromwell as the amoral, vengeful and cruel politician he is. Also, as he is painfully self-aware, a doomed one.

And here is King Henry, as capriciously murderous as it's possible to be. And here is the enigmatic cipher Anne Boleyn -- I don't think it's too far a stretch to infer that Mantel means to set her up as a feminist icon.

Well, that's enough - too much. Just read it and find out.
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Reading Progress

10/13/2012 page 67
16.0% "Mantel is such a good writer that it makes me want to weep with joy."
10/21/2012 page 336
81.0% "I'm drawing this out. DAMN but it's brilliant. So much darker than Wolf Hall (layers of darkness, understably so). Get writing, Ms. Mantel - we must have the third!"

Comments (showing 1-9 of 9) (9 new)

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

Excellent. I am so excited. But I must read Wolf's Hall first.


Jennifer (aka EM) Yes, you absolutely must read WH first! Oh, you have such a treat in store. I will be able to relive them vicariously through you.

And now I must wait for the third!!! Hurry up, Hilary!


Simon Jen, I'm curious to learn why you think that Boleyn is intended as a 'feminist icon' by Mantel.


Jennifer (aka EM) Sorry - took me a while to get back to this and my reply is probably still going to be inarticulate. There's such a strong theme in Wolf Hall, and even stronger in BUTB, of marriage as an institution that completely oppresses women. And through this, we are offered Anne who seems to me to be portrayed as someone using that oppression deliberately to achieve her own advantage. We see an almost round-table number of characterizations: everything from Anne as a used-and-abused cog in the machine, to Anne as a conniving, self-determining mistress of her own and the entire Court's destinies wielding her womb as her weapon of choice.

There is a very telling scene at the end - the very end - that cemented my own view of Anne as the latter: an agent of change (and choice) for women rather than a victim and pawn of a system that reduces women to insignificance except for their heir-bearing capacity. Although Martel, because she is brilliant, never makes it clear which characterization she favours or intends. But I think she hints, and hints strongly, in her portrayal of Anne's final days.

You haven't read this yet, right? I can't tell you the scene - it would be a total spoiler. :-)


Simon Yes, I've read and reviewed it. Do tell me the scene.


message 6: by Jennifer (aka EM) (last edited Dec 01, 2012 08:54AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jennifer (aka EM) (view spoiler) That seemed to me hugely significant. Am I misremembering/overstating?


Jennifer (aka EM) HEY - did I miss your review. Sheesh.


Simon Ah, I did remark on that scene, though I'm not sure I saw it in the same light. Which isn't to say that there is some other light I saw it in! I was just struck.


Jennifer (aka EM) I was struck too. It seemed to demand to be untangled - the end (the whole book) was so concise and deliberate in its imagery. And so I landed there. I'm sure there are other interpretations. I feel like I want to read this again solely looking for all the layers of meaning I've no doubt missed.


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