Bring Up The Bodies
Bring Up The Bodies is of course the sequel to Booker Prize winning Wolf Hall, charting the career and life of senior Tudor court advisor Thomas Cromwell.
We return to his story exactly where we left off at the titular Wolf Hall where Henry VIII is first introduced to future third wife Jane Seymour. One of the many great things about Wolf Hall was that they arrived there in the last sentence, and you finally know why it is called Wolf Hall in the first place.
I adored Wolf Hall and thought it was one of the most well written and enjoyable Booker Prize winners in years. Therefore it gives me tremendous pleasure to say that Bring Up The Bodies is equally good. The exquisite prose and turn of phrase follow on seamlessly from the first book and it wasn't hard at all for me to totally re-enter that universe despite not having brushed up on a re-read of Wolf Hall beforehand.
I enjoy stories of the Tudor court and have read all of Philippa Gregory's Tudor novels, and watched the laughably bad Showtime series on BBC2. Mantel's novels are a much classier affair however, and by taking the character of Thomas Cromwell, a lesser explored and perhaps enigmatic figure gives a fresh eye on a well told tale. Where Wolf Hall chartered the downfalls of Cardinal Wolsey and Katherine of Aragon respectively, Bring Up The Bodies brings us the downfall of Anne Boleyn, a well documented fall from grace. Anne Boleyn herself remains enigmatic - were the stories about her true or was she much more sinned against than sinning?
This book doesn't offer those answers only Thomas Cromwell's motives: political alliances, satisfying the King's capricious nature by any means necessary, and more interestingly, payback for his personal vendettas. He makes for an intriguing, clever, and foreboding individual which is just what one wants from a protagonist.
It is again, beautifully written and beautifully researched, and I was delighted to hear that there will be a third novel, which history buffs will know will cover the disaster that befalls Thomas Cromwell as Henry's favoured man when Henry finds that he mislikes fourth bride Anne Of Cleeves. I for one can't wait! 10/10