I finally finished reading Hilary Mantel’s (relatively) new book Bring Up the Bodies and this is my review.
Generally, I thought it was engaging and well-written. However, I was a little disappointed. I don’t know if that’s just because it was so hyped up, and then it won the Man Booker Prize, but I just felt that it was a bit slow to get into the story. I preferred Bring Up the Bodies to Wolf Hall, however, partly because it was more ‘my’ period – the fall of Anne Boleyn, but also because it looked at more outside Cromwell’s own life, and it examined opinion and perception., which is a huge part of my own research.
Genre/s: Historical Fiction / Romance / Drama.
Setting: London (UK) – Greenwich, Tower of London, Austin Friars, Whitehall
Characters: Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Thomas Wriothesley, Jane Boleyn, George Boleyn, Thomas Boleyn, William Brereton, Mark Smeaton, Henry Norris, Francis Weston, Henry Fitzroy, Thomas Wyatt, Edward Seymour, Thomas Seymour, Elizabeth Seymour, Gregory Cromwell, Thomas Cranmer, William Kingston, Mary Tudor, Elizabeth Tudor.
Storyline: Bring Up the Bodies picks up from where Wolf Hall left off – Henry VIII has married Anne Boleyn, and they have a daughter, Elizabeth. Henry spends time at Wolf Hall and there falls in love with Jane Seymour. Anne has failed to conceive a son, and so she has to go.
Point of View: Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII’s Chief Minister.
Strengths: It looks at opinion and perception in a clever way, analysing all possible angles in views of Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn and Thomas Cromwell, among others. It is well-written, the language is concise but
descriptive (if that’s even possible!) and the chapters are very well divided, if on the long side. I loved the idea of writing from the perspective of Thomas Cromwell rather than the more popular views of either Henry VIII or Anne Boleyn. I also loved the alternative perception of Cromwell as a family man, rather than merely an ambitious, ruthless minister.
Weaknesses: It took a while to get into, as the story seemed to pick up only after about 100 pages, rather than right from the beginning. I also felt that the character of Jane Seymour was a little bit 2D and she didn’t seem to come across as an actual person, and that dropped my rating a little. The chapters could also have been shortened to make it easier to read.
Overall Rating: 19.5 / 20.
Recommend? Yes. Everyone should read this brilliant novel.