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Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel

This was the hardback that I took on holiday with me that provoked particular riducule from my husband! However, I just couldn’t wait for it to come out in paperback and I am very glad I didn’t. Whilst reclining on a beach, looking out to the Indian Ocean, I was in the mind of Thomas Cromwell. This was not always an easy place to be. The utter ruthlessness and relentlessness of this man was terrifying in the final stages of the book. He was a character that I had come to like and admire and this side of his character made me re-evaluate my views. Interestingly, even after finishing Bring up the Bodies, I still couldn’t help admiring him. However, that admiration is now tinged with fear. Another aspect of the book that intrigued me was the fact that Mantel never quite tells us whether Anne was guilty of infidelity – Cromwell is content to find men just generally guilty to satisfy Henry’s need for vengance.

In my opinion, Bring up the Bodies is even better than the first book, Wolf Hall. In Wolf Hall, I found Mantel’s device of using ‘he’ rather than names very confusing and it took me a long while to become comfortable with it. In Bring up the Bodies, my ‘eye’ was now in for this device and I did not struggle as much. Bring up the Bodies covers a much shorter time period than Wolf Hall, which may be another reason why I enjoyed it slighty more – it feels taut and menacing. Mantel is a magician with this old story – I thought there was nothing more to say but I was wrong! However, Bring up the Bodies inevitably does not have the same startling originality of Wolf Hall.

I have just read that Mantel has been included on this year’s Man Booker Prize long list for Bring up the Bodies. I think this is richly deserved. She has done something really special in her Thomas Cromwell stories – made the past come alive in a completely new way. Thank you Hilary and I look forward to the third installment of Thomas’ story very much.

p.s. Bring up the Bodies does stand alone from Wolf Hall and you could jump straight in, but why would you deprive yourself of the whole story?!