Bring Up the Bodies, by Hilary Mantel

Blogging for a Good Book

AnneFollowing her success with Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel won a second Man Booker prize for this second volume in a historical trilogy bookended with executions. In Bring Up the Bodies, Mantel continues to flesh out her portrait of Thomas Cromwell, self-made man and adviser to Henry VIII. (One reviewer calls him Henry’s consigliere.) We’re still only a sixth of the way through the Tudor mnemonic rhyme: Divorced, beheaded, she died…, but the atmosphere of doom is palpable.

Anne Boleyn’s days are numbered. The king is watching another woman, plain, “bun-face” Jane Seymour; Anne hasn’t given him a son; and Henry’s own brush with mortality reminds everyone how badly peace in England depends on establishing an uncontested succession. Always alert, Cromwell is the first to sense the direction of Henry’s thoughts, but it isn’t always obvious whether he’s making use of events or triggering them. It’s a credit to…

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