Thursday, April 04, 2013

Bring Up the Bodies (by Hillary Mantel)

A little late for the Tournament of Books, but I just finished the sequel to Wolf Hall, Bring Up the Bodies. This one essentially covers the rise and fall of Anne Boleyn from Thomas Cromwell's point of view, with Mantel's characteristic attention to dialogue, detail, and metaphor, and with Cromwell being as inscrutable and ambiguous as ever.

I would not have read it if someone hadn't told me that Mantel fixed the pronoun thing that drove me so crazy with Wolf Hall, and she did! There are a few awkward "he, Cromwell" constructions, but it's better than "he" just floating around by itself in the confusing way that it did in Wolf Hall. So this book is an easier read for sure.

It's also just as gripping as Wolf Hall if not more so, since we know Anne Boleyn is doomed, and we're waiting to see how it happens. Mantel does ascribe a strange motive to Cromwell (which is that he's getting revenge on five men specifically for a play they were in years ago) which apparently does not square with history.  I also feel that whole section of the trial and arrests and so forth is somewhat rushed, and I don't get a clear sense of the characters of some of the men. (That's probably my fault for not being aware of their names beforehand, as I'm sure they're mentioned throughout in nicely subtle dramatically ironic style.)

Mantel doesn't really take sides on whether Anne Boleyn was guilty or not, which I think is done well. (I've read some complaints from the pro-Anne contingent, but I think Anne is nicely ambiguous and not unsympathetic here.) As usual, this left me wanting to re-read Wives of Henry VIII, but this time I am also eagerly anticipating the third book in the trilogy. Bring on Jane Seymour! Bring on Anna of Cleves!

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