Thursday, April 11, 2013
Book Review: Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
Author: Hilary Mantel
Enjoyment Rating: ****
This book would be rated: PG-13 (for beheading, sexual discussions, and a little bit of language)
A few years ago, I read Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall, the story of how Thomas Cromwell managed to get Catherine of Aragon out of the picture and Anne Boelyn married to Henry VIII. I read the book while I was visiting my parents, and I have lots of memories of going up and down the rolling hills of Minneapolis while trying to decide if the book was really boring or totally fascinating (it got fascinating-- it just took some time). So I wasn't surprised when Bring up the Bodies, the sequel to Wolf Hall, or in other words, how Thomas Cromwell managed to get Anne Boelyn out of the picture so Jane Seymour could marry Henry VIII, started slow. It's actually because of this slow start that I give the book four stars instead of five.
But once the story gets underway, it's fascinating. I was running on the treadmill in China one night, and the thought struck me that nothing had happened much in the book. There had been lots of conversations, but very little action. And, in fact, most of the book seems to take place in Cromwell's head. For many writers, this would be the recipe for disaster, but in Mantel's capable hands, I wanted more when I reached the end of the story. I fear that Cromwell may have been far less interesting and thoughtful in real life than he was in this story, and even though I know he was somewhat of a devilish beast in his value for human life and position, I can't help being just a little bit in love with the character that history and Hilary Mantel have created.