6 March 2019

Historical Fiction Book Review: Bring Up the Bodies, by Hilary Mantel


Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

By 1535 Thomas Cromwell is Chief Minister to Henry VIII, his fortunes having risen with those of Anne Boleyn, the king’s new wife. But Anne has failed to give the king an heir, and Cromwell watches as Henry falls for plain Jane Seymour. Cromwell must find a solution that will satisfy Henry, safeguard the nation and secure his own career. But neither minister nor king will emerge unscathed from the bloody theatre of Anne’s final days.

I recently re-watched the BBC DVD of Wolf Hall, based on the two books by Hilary Mantel, and I wanted to see what the screenwriter, Peter Straughan, had included and what he'd chosen to leave out. In the BBC version there are some wonderful scenes where Mark Rylance, as Thomas Cromwell, says nothing but holds the silence or gives a look which says more than any words.

In the book, Hilary Mantel has whole pages of lyrical description which create a compelling sense of place and time. In her author's note Hilary Mantel acknowledges that that the evidence for the circumstances surrounding the fall of Anne Boleyn are complex and sometimes contradictory,  sources are often dubious and after-the-fact. 

This is where historical fiction can usefully begin to fill the gaps, particularly using a point of view of one of the participants, in this case Thomas Cromwell.

I recommend this book to anyone interested the Tudors generally and the life of Thomas Cromwell. I'm sure this is a book I will return to and find something new.

Tony riches
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About the Author

Hilary Mantel is the author of thirteen books , including A Place of Greater Safety, Beyond Black, and the memoir Giving up the Ghost. Her two most recent novels, Wolf Hall and its sequel Bring up the Bodies have both been awarded The Man Booker Prize - an unprecedented achievement. Find out more at her website http://hilary-mantel.com/

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