Monday, July 23, 2012
Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
Book: Bring up the Bodies
Author: Hilary Mantel
Recommended To: People who just wished and wished Hilary would fix the second-person speech in her follow up.
Bring up the Bodies is the second book in a trilogy written by Hilary Mantel. Her first book Wolf Hall followed Thomas Cromwell on his rise to power as an adviser to King Henry VIII and his tireless efforts to put Anne Boleyn on the throne of England.
Book two is a bit different. Cromwell must reverse his efforts and remove Anne from the throne in order to keep his ever demanding boss, the king, from blowing a royal gasket.
I really enjoyed this book from Cromwell's perspective. One of my biggest complaints about Wolf Hall was that Mantel writes in second person. Everything is: He this and He that. She still writes in second person in Bring up the Bodies, but at least this time, she makes it more clear who she is talking about. Now, the sentences read something like: He, Cromwell, went to the market. This got very repetitive, but at least the reader is aware that the person she's talking about is the main character and not some other male character in the book.
There are many books about Tudor England and the rise and fall of Anne Boleyn, but of all the historical fiction I've read from this time period, Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies are two of the most accurate and most compelling. Mantel creates an urgency around the conviction and trial of Anne Boleyn that I haven't found in other books. Her viewpoint on the speed of Anne's downfall is very interesting and I've never seen a Tudor author break down the investigation in the way that Mantel does. Mantel describes King Henry's orders to Cromwell, the investigation into Anne's behavior, and her imprisonment and trial in a span of around 6 days. It is wildly fascinating to read about how Cromwell interrogated a mere singer in Queen Anne's retinue and from there indicted several of the King's closest friends and the Queen, particularly in such a short period of time.
I do recommend reading some lighter historical fiction (even wikipedia) about the time period before delving into these two books. The writing is sometimes very tough and it helps to have a perspective on the way the history turns out before reading the books. Not that we don't all know what happens to Anne Boleyn, but there is a host of other characters, who are just as important, and some quick background on those individuals is hugely helpful when reading this book.
I give this book a very solid B and I recommend it as an improvement on Wolf Hall. I am very excited for the third book in the series, which I can only imagine takes Cromwell to new highs and lows.