Thursday, February 2, 2017

BRING UP THE BODIES by Hilary Mantel

By Hilary Mantel
                There are some thousand review of Bring up the Bodies on Amazon, so this review will probably encompass much that has already been said. But I’ll try to make it original.
                Bring up the Bodies is the second in the historical fictional account of Thomas Cromwell, Master Secretary and right hand (hatchet and otherwise) man of King Henry VIII. The first book Wolf Hall: A Novel is the first in the series, and there will be a third one—now, work in progress.
                This has to be one of the most fascinating, brutal and fast changing periods of history. The reign of Henry VIII starts with England snuggled into the bosom of the Roman Catholic Church and ends with the transformation of its religious and cultural environments through the arts and emotions of Henry, Anne Boleyn and Thomas Cromwell. Or ‘Whatever Henry wants, Henry gets.” Never mind the bodies they leave in the fray, and the centuries of religious implications that exist to this day.
                 This books starts off where Booker Award winning “Wolf Hall: A Novel” leaves off—with the execution of Sir Thomas More. It covers the period of Henry’s courtship of Anne Boleyn, the ousting of his present queen, Katherine of Aragon, marriage to Queen Anne and her ultimate downfall, because she too, could not provide Henry’s obsessive desire for a male heir.
                 In the first novel, Cardinal Woolsey could not obtain Henry’s (again obsessive) desire to get a divorce or annulment from Katherine. Thomas Cromwell was in the employ of Woolsey.    One thing I didn’t know about Cromwell is that he brought down the men he thought ruined his mentor.  He harbors his grudge for years before the right opportunity presents itself (perceived adultery with the Queen) Then he pounces and brings  down Anne and four of Henry’s closest friends.
                 On the other hand, Hilary Mantel portrays Cromwell as a loyal friend and a loving family man who has compassion for others (even ones he’s hauling off to the scaffold.) Anne Boleyn is portrayed as a scheming and ruthless woman who will stop at nothing to get what she wants.  (Henry and the crown.) It’s like a Shakespearian tragedy. The character’s flaws are what bring them down in the end. With the men Henry executed, it isn’t necessarily adultery with the queen that gets them in the end, but other previous crime and failings.   
                 One criticism: This book, as well as “Wolf Hall” is hard to follow at times. Sometimes eloquent and lovely, it can be hard to follow who’s talking to whom. Her overuse of “He ____” can be confusing, not sure whether Thomas is doing the speaking or listening.
                 The third in the trilogy is yet to be released. All Thomas Cromwell and Henry VIII fans should be anxiously awaiting this book.


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