My rating: 4 of 5 stars
As I wait and wait and wait with bated breath for the third book of the Thomas Cromwell trilogy by Hilary Mantel, I’ve chosen to repost my review of the second book, Bring Up the Bodies. Click here for my review of the first book, Wolf Hall. (Previously posted in my now-defunct blog, “The Reading Corner”)
As soon as I began Bring Up the Bodies, I noticed that it was well to my own advantage that I’d just read the prequel, Wolf Hall. Otherwise, I would have been staring at the pages, trying to piece myself into the story. In this case, I swiftly tore into it…
Mantel jumps in with that grand proverbial “he”! I love it!
Take this: “… the sky is so clear you can see into Heaven and spy on what the saints are doing.” My God!!! Oh, to write like this!
I did find that Cromwell speaks quite a bit more in this story than in the first, in longer paragraphs. He seemed just a tad less enigmatic this way – just a tad, and it’s still his story though by all means. He was also much more full of himself than before, and add that with age, he was getting tired. This time, his ambitions nearly got the best of him – when Henry realized Cromwell had outsmarted him and boy how he let him and everyone know how he didn’t like it one bit. Hell, his job was to outsmart everyone else for Henry – not for himself (well, no one but Cromwell was to know that!).
I can’t say I remember “Crumb” as his endearment in Wolf Hall, but I was glad to see “Cremuel” was still pronounced for me.
Halfway through it, my dad and I were talking about him – in conjunction with Henry VIII. He says “Well he (or shall I say: ‘He, Cromwell’) was Henry’s flunky”. Mon Dieu! How dare he?!
I was absolutely appalled and came to Cromwell’s aid. I pretty much defended him: “He was saving his hide! Anything for His Majesty!”
“I guess you’re right” was the response.
Mantel’s take on Tudor England through his eyes has been so refreshing. I have really enjoyed her phrasing, her astonishing way with words! Such glorious sentences. This too (at Katherine of Aragon’s death towards Anne’s reaction):
She will die that day, she says. She has studied death, many times anticipated it, and she is not shy at its approach. She dictates her wishes about her burial arrangements, which she does not expect to be observed. She asks for her household to be paid off, he debts to be settled.
At ten in the morning a priest anoints her, touching the holy oil to her eyelids and lips, her hands and feet. These lids will now seal and not reopen, she will neither look nor see. These lips have finished their prayers. These hands will sign no more papers. These feet have finished their journey. By noon her breathing is stertorous, she is laboring to her end. At two o’clock, light cast into her chamber by the fields of snow, she resigns from life. As she draws her last breath, the sombre forms of her keepers close in. They are reluctant to disturb the aged chaplain, and the old women shuffling from her bedside. Before they have washed her, Bedingfield has put his fastest rider on the road.
8 January: the news arrives at court. It filters out from the king’s rooms then runs riot up staircases to the rooms where the queen’s maids are dressing, and through the cubby holes where kitchen boys huddle to doze, and along lanes and passages through the breweries and the cold rooms for keeping fish, and up again through the gardens to the galleries and bounces up to the carpeted chambers where Anne Boleyn sinks to her knees and says ‘At last God, not before time!’ The musicians tune up for the celebrations.
Ah… such imagery, such description, detail. I watched every bit of that happening! Sigh…
I enjoyed this book a lot, but I have to say I prefer the depth, the language, the masterful storytelling in Wolf Hall. Bring Up The Bodies was a bit more concise, condensed, yes, tighter. I’d like to give it 4.5 stars. It was still an engaging piece of work, and I was panting along towards the end as everyone was gathered for the Tower.
I’m looking forward to the third of this trilogy, but then again, I’m not…
My thoughts on the first of the trilogy: Wolf Hall.
Have you read either of them or both? Please share in the comments. I’d love to hear your thoughts on it too!
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