Thursday, 3 January 2013

Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel

Something of a highbrown hit this one. The sequel to Wolf Hall and another Booker winner, which has to be a first.  Certainly well deserved, as this was even more fun and dark than the first one.

It picks up right where the last one finishes - Thomas Cromwell with Henry VIII at Wolf Hall itself.  He's only been married to Anne Boleyn for a few years, but the shy Jane Seymour catches the King's eye and the wheels are in motion for more machinations, justifications and ultimately bloodshed.  It ends with the execution of Boleyn and her supposed lovers.  Spoiler - though you should have paid more attention in History.

Talking of sequels, what it put me most in mind of was the Godfather part 2.  Cromwell's a pretty stand up guy in Wolf Hall.  Ruthless certainly, and he does organise the death of Thomas More, but in Mantel's telling he really was asking for it.  In this Cromwell's a lot more ambiguous to say the least.  For a start, there just isn't the same plausible rationalisation for working against the new Queen just a few years into their marriage.  She's young and healthy - give the girl a chance to pop out a boy, at least!

Cromwell's own motives start to become more suspect, too.  He's still serving his King throughout, but the gradual revelation of why he's chosen certain people to target is thrilling and chilling.  Don't mess with Cromwell!

I enjoyed this a lot more than Wolf Hall, which sometimes got a bit confusing and bogged down at times.  This seemed a lot more straightforward and entertaining.  Fingers crossed the third in the series doesn't go all Andy Garcia.

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