Sue's Reviews > Bring Up the Bodies

Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
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it was amazing
bookshelves: britain, historical-fiction, 16th-century, read-2013, favorite-authors, favorites
Recommended for: all readers of historical fiction, especially of this era

Wonderful creation by Hilary Mantel and deserving of all the praise it has received. This is a novel more of action than description, though the action is often in dialogue, both external and internal.

Cromwell is in charge, as much as anyone who is not the King or a member of the nobility can be. The inner workings at the various royal courts and Cromwell's now multiple homes are intense and exciting. As the royal times seem about to change, He (Cromwell--better identified in this book) looks to a changing future.


"But Cremuel remains a nobody. The King gives him titles
that no one abroad understands, and jobs that no one at
home can do. He multiplies offices, duties pile on him:
plain Master Cromwell goes out at morning, plain Master
Cromwell comes in at night. Henry had offered him the
Lord Chancellor's post; no don't disturb Lord Audley, he
had said...Audley in fact does as he is told....You
cannot, surely, be Lord Chancellor and Master Secretary?
And he will not give up that post. It doesn't matter if it
gives him a lesser status. It doesn't matter if the French
don't comprehend. Let them judge by results....chivalry's
day is over. One day soon moss will grow in the tilt yard.
the days of the moneylender have arrived, and the days of
the swaggering privateer; banker sits down with banker,
and kings are their waiting boys." (p. 141)


Mantel's Cromwell (sometimes also named Cremuel) is a complicated man, constantly thinking four or five --or a dozen--steps ahead, to protect himself, his family and his King. It appears to me in that order.

I can hardly wait for the third installment of this series.

No stronger 5 than this.

Addendum: Mantel provides an interesting postscript on her thoughts about Cromwell.
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Reading Progress

January 17, 2013 – Shelved
January 17, 2013 – Shelved as: britain
January 17, 2013 – Shelved as: historical-fiction
January 18, 2013 – Shelved as: 16th-century
August 2, 2013 – Started Reading
August 3, 2013 –
page 30
7.28% "So far, this looks to be just as good, if not better, than Wolf Hall."
August 7, 2013 –
page 100
24.27% "As Cromwell rides to see Katherine,he thinks about the trip itself. "...it is good for him to get out to the country. Squeezed in London's alleys. edging horse or mule under her jetties and gables,the mean canvas of her sky pierced by broken roofs, one forgets what England is: how broad the fields, how wide the sky, how squalid and ignorant the populace." p 80"
August 11, 2013 –
page 153
37.14% "I have felt some sympathy for Katherine. No such feelings for Anne. she just doesn't bring out any positive feelings in me whatsoever. I'm beginning to see how she could have such a fate."
August 15, 2013 –
page 198
48.65% ""A term in Parliament is an exercise in frustration...a lesson in patience: whichever way you like to look at it. They commune of war, peace, strife, contention, debate, murmur, grudges, riches, poverty, truth, falsehood, justice, equity, oppression, treason, murder and the edification and continuance of the commonwealth: then do as their predecessors have done--...as well as they might--and leave...where they began""
August 20, 2013 –
page 301
73.06% "I'm racing along now watching the downfall pf Anne. Two years, I hear, before the end of the trilogy. That will be a difficult wit."
August 21, 2013 –
page 407
100.0% "p.362 "The order goes to the Tower. 'Bring up the bodies.' And so the story goes...running, galloping toward its completion."
August 21, 2013 – Shelved as: read-2013
August 21, 2013 – Shelved as: favorite-authors
August 21, 2013 – Shelved as: favorites
August 21, 2013 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-50 of 58 (58 new)


·Karen· Hey Sue, I'm up to page 72. How are you doing?


message 2: by Sue (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sue Haven't read any further yet. I do like it. Hope to get to more today.


Tajma I can't wait for Anne to get her comeuppance. She's so mean!


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

Kim I love this book.


Tajma I'm finding it much more concise than Wolf Hall. The writing is smoother.


message 6: by Sue (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sue I'm noticing that she defines her "he" in this book. Must have felt the comments after Wolf Hall. I agree it does seem more concise. I had to finish a library book due tomorrow. Now I can return to this (after email!)


·Karen· Tajma wrote: "I'm finding it much more concise than Wolf Hall. The writing is smoother."

It certainly seems to flow more, yes. It doesn't jump around quite so much, is that it?


Tajma That's definitely a big part of it, Karen. Also, she concentrates on fewer characters so their voices are more distinct to me.


·Karen· That's true. There are fewer characters - well, a lot of them are dead. All those Cromwell women, now falcons. There must be some significance there. Who are the crows? I'm on that section now. I'm not sure who the crows are.


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

Sue The falcons were really odd. I was wondering who named them. I know you're ahead of me, Karen. I've only read that initial scene. Somehow I can't see Cromwell naming the falcons. Henry? yes.


·Karen· That's an interesting question Sue. The names strike John Seymour as odd too. Maybe Mantel sacrificed verisimilitude to a cracking opening sentence!


message 12: by Sue (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sue Good point Karen.


Tajma ·Karen· wrote: "That's an interesting question Sue. The names strike John Seymour as odd too. Maybe Mantel sacrificed verisimilitude to a cracking opening sentence!"


I can live with that! :-)


message 14: by Sue (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sue Just finished the first 100 pages. Mantel's writing continues to pull me in and captivates me. She is so strong. The visit to Katherine---very interesting.


·Karen· I'm there too, Sue.

I was just looking back at this first part. I was struck by the scene where the King has fallen asleep, the jockeying between the men as to who should wake him, and how, without bringing his wrath down on their heads. And it's Jane who smartly raps the back of his hand, as if she were testing a cheese! Prophetic, no doubt. But it shows how the men are afraid, whereas she is not. Is this just because she knows less how the King can do harm?


message 16: by Sue (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sue Jane is an interesting person. I'd love to know what is said on those walks. She seems to have no fear of him, to see him less as king and more as a man. in spite of everything she has witnessed. Perhaps too the men are more subject to Henry's wrath than a woman is for Henry does like women. Most of the men surrounding him are "yes men" except Cromwell--who will say yes but in a very different way.


·Karen· Yes, you're quite right, as a woman she does have less to fear from Henry. There's less at stake for her - she doesn't expect a baronetcy. And she's already been lady's maid, both to Katherine and Anne.
Do we know why she no is no longer at court? I should remember from the last book, but I don't


Tajma ·Karen· wrote: "I'm there too, Sue.

I was just looking back at this first part. I was struck by the scene where the King has fallen asleep, the jockeying between the men as to who should wake him, and how, withou..."


This was hilarious! They were too afraid of him to stop him from making a fool of himself.


message 19: by Sue (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sue I'm getting ahead of myself!. I've just finished the next section. I love Mantel's writing. Given all the reading I'm in the midst of I'll probably try to stay a bit ahead. Actually this is very addictive.


Tajma I've fallen off the pace a bit but I'll catch up with you! I'm realizing what my problem is. I LOVE the interaction between Anne and Thomas. I find myself always wanting to jump to their scenes, which I guess isn't fair to the rest of the novel.


message 21: by Sue (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sue Tajma wrote: "I've fallen off the pace a bit but I'll catch up with you! I'm realizing what my problem is. I LOVE the interaction between Anne and Thomas. I find myself always wanting to jump to their scenes, wh..."

But totally understandable. Actually I'm finding so much of the action is really holding me this time. I think she (Mantel) had eliminated much of the descriptive language of the land, etc. in favor of more internal and external dialogue. It seems to make some scenes move very quickly.


message 22: by Sue (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sue Have to say I love her descriptive language--it's beautiful--but this novel is just so much more active-feeling.


Tajma Sue wrote: "Have to say I love her descriptive language--it's beautiful--but this novel is just so much more active-feeling."

Well put, Sue!!


·Karen· Yes, there does seem to be more movement, more action.

I've got up to the end of part one. I think the crows were the women around the queen, is that what I spotted? All those ladies were described as crows, shaking out their feathers when they moved away as Cromwell came in to speak to Anne.

I also noted the proxies: the killing of Anne's dog, the weird scene much earlier when two of Cromwell's young men were kicking what looked like a body and turned out to be an effigy of Weston. Foreshadowing of more violence, I presume.


message 25: by Sue (last edited Aug 12, 2013 10:40AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sue And the Papal snowmen to be destroyed in the morning by stomping!
There seem to be many fore-shadowings of mystery, fear, violence in noises of unknown origin, mists over the city or country hiding the shape of the land or the appearance of people.


·Karen· Oh now I do feel a little sympathy for Anne, and those around her too. It was a gamble that she lost. The stakes were high - her own life. Did she hold out too long? - past her most fertile stage in life, a little harder to conceive, a little harder to keep the baby and wham, that's it, thank you ma'am, next please. It is harsh. How was she meant to 'keep' Henry? How could she have sustained his interest in her? I don't know that she ever could have, in any way. The royal wife was a brood mare, nothing more than that. If she doesn't fulfill that role, then there's nothing.


Tajma Anne made the huge mistake that many people make when life is going well. She assumed she could never be brought down and that she didn't need to respect anyone "beneath" her. She only shows humanity when the wolves start howling at her door.


message 28: by Sue (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sue I haven't read any further this week--caught up in other books--but Mantel is calling to me so I'll probably dive in and get ahead.


Tajma I have lots of library holds coming in so I'm hoping to be able to keep pace. What's good is that because it's historical fiction you can put it down an never really lose the plot too much.


·Karen· Tajma, yes, you're quite right. She was arrogant in that respect, so I suppose she did bring it on herself. And she wouldn't read the signs and go quietly to a convent.

But this is all from Thomas Cromwell's point of view.

Sue, whenever you're ready. I'm sorry, there's a certain dynamic that sets in after a while, I just can't stop, although I should be reading other things too!


message 31: by Sue (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sue I'll be picking it up again soon I've been reading so many books but finished another this evening. Once I open this book, though, I find it difficult to put down. I'll read a bit of Mann and Andric then come back to this tonight I think (though I'm also reading Faulkner). who knew I could get myself in such a reading pickle!


message 32: by Tajma (last edited Aug 14, 2013 05:59PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tajma Kudos to you for being able to read Faulkner along with anything else! LOL. Which one are you reading?


message 33: by Sue (last edited Aug 14, 2013 06:29PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sue Tajma wrote: "Kudos to you for being able to read Faulkner along with anything else! LOL. Which one are you reading?"

I'm reading Go Down Moses and actually finding it quite difficult to read with anything else (and somewhat difficult all by itself!) I'm using the "just let it flow over me approach" which has worked in the past. I'm doing this with the southern group I'm in. There is a discussion but I don't want to read much of that til I've read at least the first story.


Tajma That's a nice group. Unfortunately I've come to realize that I'm not the biggest fan of Southern Lit. I joined when they were reading one of my top five favorite novels but I couldn't hang around after that.


message 35: by Sue (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sue There's a lot that I like in Southern lit and I usually read at least one of their books each month.


message 36: by Sue (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sue I finished tonight. Loved, loved, loved this book. So glad we worked this into our schedule ladies. Can hardly wait for the next book whenever it arrives.


message 37: by Kris (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kris Hooray Sue! I'm so glad you loved this book. I thought you would. :)


Diane Barnes My "real life" book club chose Wolf Hall for our August read, and we met tonight to discuss it. We had a great discussion, and a couple of members went right into Bring Up the Bodies and said it was even better. I can't wait to read it myself.


message 39: by Sue (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sue Kris wrote: "Hooray Sue! I'm so glad you loved this book. I thought you would. :)"

Oh indeed I did. As many others did, I liked it even better than Wolf Hall which I would have though difficult to accomplish. So much wonderful reading this year--so many different types of books. LOVE GR!


message 40: by Sue (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sue Diane wrote: "My "real life" book club chose Wolf Hall for our August read, and we met tonight to discuss it. We had a great discussion, and a couple of members went right into Bring Up the Bodies and said it w..."

Jump right in, Diane. It really pulls you along. The only reason it took me as long as it did to read this is the fact I'm reading a few other books that demand attention (that and some migraines).


·Karen· Fine review, Sue. I'm sorry to hear about the migraines, especially as they interfere with reading, which is the most important thing after all ;-) I hope you feel better.


·Karen· I was thinking again about how old and tired Henry is. That early scene of him falling asleep at the table after the hunting expedition. I think Mantel is right to emphasise that he is tired: he wants a sweet compliant companion for his old age, he's done enough (too much perhaps) on the European stage, and his efforts have not been rewarded by heaven.
I think you're right too to point up the commercial aspect, that growing shift towards the cash nexus. These two currents are the beginnings of big changes: the move towards a different model of marriage, based on personal feelings, and the growing influence of the financial.


message 43: by Sue (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sue ·Karen· wrote: "I was thinking again about how old and tired Henry is. That early scene of him falling asleep at the table after the hunting expedition. I think Mantel is right to emphasise that he is tired: he wa..."

There was a statement at one point, nearer the end than the beginning I think, that points out that only the poor can marry for love or companionship. Henry is aging fast, isn't he. I imagine the various wounds mentioned aren't helping as they don't seem to heal well, if at all.

The world of that time does seem to be changing. I love the mention of letters and proclamations now being translated into local languages as Latin no longer rules. I recently read The Ornament of the World: How Muslims, Jews, and Christians Created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain which deals with that in some ways through the changes in Spain in particular. Very interesting times.


message 44: by Sue (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sue ·Karen· wrote: "Fine review, Sue. I'm sorry to hear about the migraines, especially as they interfere with reading, which is the most important thing after all ;-) I hope you feel better."

Thanks Karen. I had many sections marked for possible inclusion but this just seemed to sum up so much of what was happening, personally, nationally and internationally.

As for the headaches, most times the meds will help. I just need to take them instead of thinking maybe this time it's not really a migraine :) (many of mine now come from my neck so it can be confusing)


message 45: by Fionnuala (new) - added it

Fionnuala Cromwell is in charge
One of the key messages in this book, I think, Sue. You've extracted the essence very nicely.
As to the falcons mentioned in the discussion, I felt they were also a key metaphor for the action in this part of the Cromwell saga, they do what has to be done, as he does, swiftly and silently.


·Karen· Sue wrote: "only the poor can marry for love or companionship."

Yes! And although Henry is tired, he's also secure as king. He doesn't feel the need to bolster his position with a marriage of convenience any more. The personal CAN override the state considerations.


message 47: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim Such a wonderful novel. I completely believe in Mantel's version of her historical characters.


Tajma If there were six stars, I would have given it to this novel. Not a single flaw of plotting, character or dialogue.

Sue, I was also bothered by a few migraines during this read and more than once had to reread blocks of pages. The writing was so strong that even with that problem I never lost the narrative thread.


message 49: by Sue (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sue Fionnuala wrote: "Cromwell is in charge
One of the key messages in this book, I think, Sue. You've extracted the essence very nicely.
As to the falcons mentioned in the discussion, I felt they were also a key metaph..."


I noted the change from falcons at the very end of the book. though I can't recall what bird took it's place. All part of the overall change.


message 50: by Sue (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sue ·Karen· wrote: "Sue wrote: "only the poor can marry for love or companionship."

Yes! And although Henry is tired, he's also secure as king. He doesn't feel the need to bolster his position with a marriage of conv..."


Cromwell seems to have certainly been a largely factor in that security!


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