Hilary Mantel’s brilliant and Man Booker Prize-winning books about Thomas Cromwell continue with Bring Up the Bodies.
Cromwell is the right-hand man of Henry the VIII. His masterful manipulation of people and circumstances to make the world as Henry wants it has brought Cromwell wealth and power.
Getting Anne Boleyn on the throne was a struggle. Now he has to get her off of it without losing his own head in the process.
Mantel doesn’t just tell history, she makes it come alive.
In one scene I can’t get out of my head: Henry has a temper tantrum because of the Spanish ambassador’s continued disrespect towards his new wife, Anne, and the repeated requests from the Spanish crown for money owed. The king blows his top at Cromwell and screams in his face.
He says he believes Cromwell has always manipulated him and laughed at him. But he is king and he will not be steered.
And, even though I knew the history, I thought for a moment Cromwell was going to be taken to the Tower in that instant.
Instead, he quietly apologizes to the king and dismisses himself, then goes to a different room to take a drink. With shaking hands, Cromwell spills a drop of the wine on himself and sits there, contemplating the small stain on his shirt.
And I said to myself, “Mantel is a genius.”
In that passage, it was as if I was in that room, living the moment. She makes you forget you’re reading a book. It’s so immersive. It’s almost magical.
Cromwell’s efforts to collect evidence against Queen Anne fills much of this book. As he tightens his net around her, you can almost feel it tighten around yourself.
Cromwell jokes with his sworn men to ease some of the tension, but it is always there, buzzing beneath the surface.
Highly recommended for historical fiction readers. Bring Up the Bodies is one of the best books I’ve read this year.
If you enjoyed Wolf Hall or Bring Up The Bodies, you may also enjoy Elizabeth I by Margaret George.
Thanks for reading!