K.D. Absolutely's Reviews > Bring Up the Bodies

Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
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it was amazing
bookshelves: historical-fiction, booker, religion, love-story, tragicomic
Recommended to K.D. by: Booker 2012 winner

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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Reading Progress

November 20, 2012 – Shelved
November 24, 2012 – Started Reading
November 24, 2012 – Shelved as: historical-fiction
November 24, 2012 – Shelved as: booker
November 24, 2012 – Shelved as: religion
November 24, 2012 – Shelved as: love-story
November 24, 2012 – Shelved as: tragicomic
November 25, 2012 –
page 28
6.88% "Oh God, Henry VIII succeeded in divorcing Catherine and he is now married to Anne Boleyn, but he still does not have an heir? He has a bastard son but it does not make him an heir. He has Elizabeth who is a daughter and just an infant. He is now strolling the garden with the beautiful lady-in-the-waiting Jane Seymour!"
December 3, 2012 –
page 178
43.73% "Henry VIII was able to sack Catherine in "Wolf Hall 1." Now that Anne Boleyn cannot give him an heir, he is eyeing the lady-in-the-waiting of these two queens, Jane Seymour. Henry VIII claims that he is allowed to have a whore based on his papal seal. Crazy king (sorry to his fans)."
December 31, 2012 –
page 301
73.06% "Resumed reading after so many weeks. As I go along, I am loving the prose more and more. This is an excellent book when it comes to writing."
January 1, 2013 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-18 of 18 (18 new)

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Laura GReat review K.D. I'm planning to read this book this month.


Evan Leach I'm reading Wolf Hall right now and I am loving it. Mantel rocks.


Laura Agreed.


message 4: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim Great review of a great book, K.D. As you like Mantel's writing, you would probably enjoy A Place of Greater Safety, which is her novel about the French Revolution. I knew very little about the Revolution before I read it and I did lots of googling, but it's an amazing book.


K.D. Absolutely Thank you, Laura and Evan. Mantel's storytelling prowess is really different. It is one of a kind.

Kim, thanks. I will check that out.


message 6: by Thom (new) - added it

Thom Swennes Your review has sparked my interest. This is said as a complement and I have added this book and its prequel to my to-read list. This list, however, has grown much faster than I expected so it might be some time before I can fit them in.


K.D. Absolutely Thanks, Thom. Happy New Year!

It is a good book. I know that you will like it. No pressure though.


message 8: by Diane (new) - added it

Diane Excited to see all the buzz about Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies - Endre (my partner) got me both last month and I can't wait to read them this year.


message 9: by Sue (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sue I'm currently reading Wolf Hall and certain that I'll be moving on to this. Nice review K.D.


message 10: by Anna (new) - rated it 5 stars

Anna Kim wrote: "Great review of a great book, K.D. As you like Mantel's writing, you would probably enjoy A Place of Greater Safety, which is her novel about the French Revolution. I knew very little about the Rev..."

Yes, a lot of people who have read more of Hilary M than I have (I have just read WH and BUTB) say A Place of Greater Safety is even better.....it's on my list...


message 11: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim Anna wrote: "Yes, a lot of people who have read more of Hilary M than I have (I have just read WH and BUTB) say A Place of Greater Safety is even better.....it's on my list..."

I'm one of those people, Anna, or at the very least I'd say it's every bit as good.


message 12: by Dawn (new)

Dawn Willey Great Review, K.D. - Thanks for adding me to your list of friends.


message 13: by K.D. (new) - rated it 5 stars

K.D. Absolutely Diane D., what a partner you have there. Happy reading!

Sue, I know you will! Hilary Mantel is now one of my favorite writers!

Anna, now I becoming more and more interested about that book.

Dawn, thanks. Happy New Year!!!


message 14: by Diane (last edited Jan 03, 2013 01:50PM) (new) - added it

Diane K.D. wrote: "Diane D., what a partner you have there. Happy reading!

Sue, I know you will! Hilary Mantel is now one of my favorite writers!

Anna, now I becoming more and more interested about that book.

Daw..."


KD - what I didn't mention is that he got me that hardback of Wolf Hall from Charring Cross Road, which is a bookstore in London. I had gotten the paperback from Barnes & Noble, which I promptly returned. yeah, he's a keeper :)


message 15: by K.D. (new) - rated it 5 stars

K.D. Absolutely Lucky you! I wish my wife is like that too. She nags me when I buy books. We are being taken over by my books. Half of our bedroom is occupied by my to-be-read books hahaha.


message 16: by Diane (new) - added it

Diane K.D., in our case we are both book-a-holics so the entire apartment is being overrun by both of our to-be-reads books :)


message 17: by K.D. (new) - rated it 5 stars

K.D. Absolutely Hah! So I am not alone in this planet? Good to know hahaha.


message 18: by Shayantani (new)

Shayantani Hey is this a sequel or can I read this having not read Wolf Hall?


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