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Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
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Bring Up the Bodies (2012)

by Hilary Mantel

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Wolf Hall Trilogy (2)

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3,0862081,835 (4.32)3 / 645
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English (209)  Dutch (2)  Spanish (1)  German (1)  All languages (213)
Showing 1-5 of 209 (next | show all)
Such a wonderful book - well-researched and imaginative, the perfect combination for a historical novel. The voice she uses - "almost" present tense - and the way she makes Cromwell the central character, like you are reading his mind, without using first person, is really interesting. ( )
  anitatally | Feb 28, 2015 |
Brilliant, complex and a complete page-turner. ( )
  swati.ravi | Feb 9, 2015 |
I liked Bring Up The Bodies. I preferred Wolf Hall. One thing that jarred was the repeated use of "He, Cromwell", as though Ms Mantel had been pressured to make clear it was Cromwell speaking when she said he, or Cromwell about whom she was writing. It was unnecessary. I also didn't really like the novelization style as much as the style of Wolf Hall. I felt it put me at a remove from Cromwell and made the story less compelling. There was a sense of apology about the writing, strengthened by the author's afterword, explaining that it was fantasy and some characters had been left out and others made to seem more guilty than they were. Still a good book, well crafted, and an excellent filling in of the gaps in the historical record. I wish Hilary Mantel had had the courage of her previous writing style, though. ( )
1 vote missizicks | Feb 8, 2015 |
With an exquisitely beautiful opening full of visual and emotional subtleties, the author has seemingly effortlessly re-introduced the readers to Thomas Cromwell and his values, and re-established the continuation of the events started in Wolf Hall.

Seemingly effortless is a key phrase in describing this novel. It does not shine a spotlight on how clever it is; you make the inferences and connections yourself but undoubtedly they are the ones the author wanted you to make in the first place. More frequently than not, it is occupied with short, simple sentences - subject verb object with one or two quantifiers. It manages to feel modern but still accurate to its time period yet not put-upon as historical fiction adaptations may feel - similar to how it is a shock to see historic black-and-white photos colourised. Then you think, of course the world had colour back then and history does not feel so removed from now. I particularly enjoyed when the novel does not attempt to be absolute in the events, leaving ambiguous the parts where history is incomplete and not assuming that the characters/peoples in the events are omniscient - or at least know more than we do - just because they lived through it. It feels true-to-life that accusations and gossips sometimes remain just so, unconfirmed.

The novel is a careful character study of human nature - albeit heightened as interactions tends to be in small clusters as politically cut-throat as one depicted here. The Cromwell we meet again here has remained much the same practical realist as we have known. He has also grown as we might expect, sharpened in his many trades and understandably also wary, more experienced in potential failures. He has softened in his age, reminiscing and questioning his younger self's behaviour - his view of Walter warms in this book, just as one might understand one's parents' reasoning as one ages. A technical aside: I was disappointed to see specifications of he, Cromwell in the speech specifiers but can understand why the author chose to do so especially after the complaints regarding the ambiguity.

We were also given understanding to the conflicting motivations of other characters, for example, Henry, and how all these motivations can clash and drive the story. It reminds me of when a few years back, there was yet another adaptation of Henry VIII and there was some article which said something along the lines of, we've had adjective Henry, adjective Henry, but never an angry Henry until now, or something to that effect. Here, the portrayal of the king is more than one-adjective, it is a lot of adjectives - some of them contradictory like real-life - , we see his motivations, his failings and his successes (and also thriftiness in recycling gifts! Perhaps the quickest way to humanise a king.).

The only character who remains an enigma, just like she is to the king, Cromwell, her whole family, is Jane Seymour. How awesome is she in the novel, by the way, with her sudden sparks of witty conversation/misconstruing? I like to imagine she is the most calculating of them all, that Cromwell may be able to see through Anne Boleyn's machinations because of their similar ambitions and skills, but Jane manages to be subtler and more devious, like how the best criminal is one who is never caught.

Far from being completely serious in its treatment of history, the novel is peppered with silly humour, my favourite being Cromwell's kingly thoughts of defenestration and Stephen Gardiner unaware but questioning, why're you looking out the window, and various other Cromwell and Jane's quick wits. In the genre of historical fiction, it is difficult to credit the author with the plotting. However, the simplicity of the writing, the background motivations and imagined interactions of characters conjures up a satisfyingly realistic version of what could have really happened. ( )
  kitzyl | Jan 11, 2015 |
This is the second in a series of book about Thomas Cromwell, a mover and shaker in Henry VIII’s court, although not a nobleman. Powerful, and increasingly rich, but not yet a ‘sir’. Anyone with any sense calls him sir unless they are filthy rich and with Lordships or better going back generations. This episode is all about Anne Boleyn, Henry’s second wife. You remember: divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived. Just remember the order the women came in!

I found the book hard to get into, then I realised that I needed to settle down in proper reading mode – comfy chair, good light, give myself an hour or two to immerse myself. It was good for me to read like that – I don’t often do it. I had been a little put off by the family tree charts at the front, looking at them and thinking, “I’ll never remember all these people.” Although the charts can be handy, I found I didn’t need them. The flow of the writing, the reminders of positions and relations, are all included in the flow of beautiful words.

Beautiful words.

I found myself transported into 1535 as if it was a modern world. As in, everywhere about me was contemporary Tudor England. Many historical novels still leave you as an onlooker; this had me in there, smelling the ordure of the streets, wondering what the news would be next day. In some ways, reading A Christmas Carol a month ago, and marvelling at the description I quoted in my review of that, prepared me for Hilary Mantel’s wonderful descriptions.

I know I should have marked them at the time, but I search the book for some examples: I can’t find any more ordinary ones, or should I say extraordinary ways of describing the ordinary. These two stand out. Death and Truth (which I was so struck by that I remembered it all the way through).

"You should not desire, he knows, the death of any human creature. Death is your prince, you are not his patron; when you think he is engaged elsewhere, he will batter down your door, walk in and wipe his boots on you." (p.162)

"What is the nature of the border between truth and lies? It is permeable and blurred because it is planted thick with rumour, confabulation, misunderstandings and twisted tales. Truth can break the gates down, truth can howl in the street; unless truth is pleasing, personable and easy to like, she is condemned to stay whimpering at the back door." (p.190)

I found the application of such truth in Thomas Cromwell’s tale an overwhelming insight into the justice of the time, of the tale. Much later Thomas asks himself (or the reader) “Were they guilty? Yes, but maybe not as charged.” The manipulation, the half-truths, the finding of evidence to support the required result are as relevant today as they ever were. So I found myself immersed in this story.

There is a stylistic element of the book one needs to grasp early, and it continued to elude me for a long time. ‘He’ is Cromwell. You may be in a paragraph with Cromwell and five others, but if ‘he’ does something, then it is Cromwell who is being referred to. The book has a single focus. It’s third person narrative but entirely from Cromwell’s point of view. Once I’d got used to this I found the author writing ‘He, Cromwell’ more often than I needed.

There is no way I can do justice to this book in a review. I’m so glad my bookclub chose it, since I wouldn’t have tackled it otherwise, and I nearly gave up on it after 50 pages. After 75 I was hooked, but realised I needed to wrap myself up in it, partly so as not to forget who’s who. I have trouble with that these days. Reading it finally over three days, I had no trouble knowing who was who, even when a single person has three different names (surname, title name and ceremonial post). I recommend it. I will read more Hilary Mantel.

( )
  Jemima_Pett | Nov 11, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 209 (next | show all)
Here, as elsewhere, Mantel’s real triumph is her narrative language. It’s not the musty Olde English of so much historical fiction, but neither is it quite contemporary. The Latinate “exsanguinates” is a perfect 16th-century touch, and so is that final, Anglo-Saxon “gore.” In some of her books, Mantel is pretty scabrous in her descriptions of present-day England, its tawdriness and cheesiness and weakness for cliché and prettifying euphemism. “Bring Up the Bodies” (the title refers to the four men executed for supposedly sleeping with Anne) isn’t nostalgic, exactly, but it’s astringent and purifying, stripping away the cobwebs and varnish of history, the antique formulations and brocaded sentimentality of costume-­drama novels, so that the English past comes to seem like something vivid, strange and brand new.
 
Is Bring Up the Bodies better than, worse than or equal to Wolf Hall? While lacking, necessarily, the shocking freshness of the first book, it is narrower, tighter, at times a more brilliant and terrifying novel. Of her historical interpretations, Mantel says in her afterword that she is "making the reader a proposal, an offer", but what is striking is how little concerned she is with the reader. Her prose makes no concessions to the disorientated: a moment's distraction and you have to start the page again. Mantel, like Cromwell, seems not to mind if we are there or not: she is writing, as he was living, for herself alone.
 
"Mantel knows what to select, how to make her scenes vivid, how to kindle her characters."
added by bookfitz | editThe New Yorker, James Wood (May 7, 2012)
 
We read historical fiction for the same reason we keep watching Hamlet: it's not what, it's how. And although we know the plot, the characters themselves do not. Mantel leaves Cromwell at a moment that would appear secure: four of his ill-wishing enemies, in addition to Anne, have just been beheaded, and many more have been neutralised. England will have peace, though it's "the peace of the hen coop when the fox has run home". But really Cromwell is balancing on a tightrope, with his enemies gathering and muttering offstage. The book ends as it begins, with an image of blood-soaked feathers.

But its end is not an end. "There are no endings," says Mantel. "If you think so you are deceived as to their nature. They are all beginnings. This is one." Which will lead us to the final instalment, and to the next batch of Henry's wives and Cromwell's machinations. How much intricate spadework will it take to "dig out" Cromwell, that "sleek, plump, and densely inaccessible" enigma? Reader, wait and see.
 
Two years ago something astonishingly fair happened in the world of prestigious prizes: the Man Booker Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction for 2009 both went to the right winner. The book was Hilary Mantel’s “Wolf Hall,” and it would have dwarfed the competition any year. “Wolf Hall” was a historical novel that ingeniously revisited well-trod territory (the early marriages of Henry VIII), turned the phlegmatic villain Thomas Cromwell into the best-drawn figure and easily mixed 16th-century ambience with timeless bitchery.

Despite a hugely complicated cast of characters and Ms. Mantel’s teasing way of preferring pronouns to proper names, it wound up providing an experience of sheer bliss. It was a hard act to follow. But the follow-up is equally sublime.
added by kidzdoc | editNew York Times, Janet Maslin (May 2, 2012)
 

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Hilary Mantelprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Pracher, RickCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vance, SimonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Willems, IneTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
'Am I not like other men? Am I not? Am I not?'

Henry VIII to Eustache Chapuys, Imperial ambassador
Dedication
Once again to Mary Robertson; after my right hearty commendacions, and with spede.
First words
His children are falling from the sky.
Quotations
What is the nature of the border between truth and lies?...Truth can break the gates down, truth can howl in the street; unless truth is pleasing, personable and easy to like, she is condemned to stay whimpering at the back door.
[The Italians] say the road between England and Hell is worn bare from treading feet, and runs downhill all the way.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Information from the Dutch Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.

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Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
"The sequel to Hilary Mantel’s 2009 Man Booker Prize winner and New York Times bestseller, Wolf Hall delves into the heart of Tudor history with the downfall of Anne Boleyn Though he battled for seven years to marry her, Henry is disenchanted with Anne Boleyn. She has failed to give him a son and her sharp intelligence and audacious will alienate his old friends and the noble families of England. When the discarded Katherine dies in exile from the court, Anne stands starkly exposed, the focus of gossip and malice. At a word from Henry, Thomas Cromwell is ready to bring her down. Over three terrifying weeks, Anne is ensnared in a web of conspiracy, while the demure Jane Seymour stands waiting her turn for the poisoned wedding ring. But Anne and her powerful family will not yield without a ferocious struggle. Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies follows the dramatic trial of the queen and her suitors for adultery and treason. To defeat the Boleyns, Cromwell must ally with his natural enemies, the papist aristocracy. What price will he pay for Anne’s head?"-- Provided by publisher.

"Though he battled for seven years to marry her, Henry is disenchanted with Anne Boleyn. She has failed to give him a son and her sharp intelligence and audacious will alienate his old friends and the noble families of England. When the discarded Katherine dies in exile from the court, Anne stands starkly exposed, the focus of gossip and malice. At a word from Henry, Thomas Cromwell is ready to bring her down. Over three terrifying weeks, Anne is ensnared in a web of conspiracy, while the demure Jane Seymour stands waiting her turn for the poisoned wedding ring. But Anne and her powerful family will not yield without a ferocious struggle. Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies follows the dramatic trial of the queen and her suitors for adultery and treason. To defeat the Boleyns, Cromwell must ally with his natural enemies, the papist aristocracy. What price will he pay for Anne’s head?"-- Provided by publisher.
[retrieved from loc.gov (Library of Congress)]
Haiku summary
Anne Boleyn's pride comes
Before her fall. By the end,
She's a head shorter.
(passion4reading)

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"The sequel to Hilary Mantel's 2009 Man Booker Prize winner and New York Times bestseller, Wolf Hall delves into the heart of Tudor history with the downfall of Anne Boleyn Though he battled for seven years to marry her, Henry is disenchanted with Anne Boleyn. She has failed to give him a son and her sharp intelligence and audacious will alienate his old friends and the noble families of England. When the discarded Katherine dies in exile from the court, Anne stands starkly exposed, the focus of gossip and malice. At a word from Henry, Thomas Cromwell is ready to bring her down. Over three terrifying weeks, Anne is ensnared in a web of conspiracy, while the demure Jane Seymour stands waiting her turn for the poisoned wedding ring. But Anne and her powerful family will not yield without a ferocious struggle. Hilary Mantel's Bring Up the Bodies follows the dramatic trial of the queen and her suitors for adultery and treason. To defeat the Boleyns, Cromwell must ally with his natural enemies, the papist aristocracy. What price will he pay for Anne's head?"-- "Though he battled for seven years to marry her, Henry is disenchanted with Anne Boleyn. She has failed to give him a son and her sharp intelligence and audacious will alienate his old friends and the noble families of England. When the discarded Katherine dies in exile from the court, Anne stands starkly exposed, the focus of gossip and malice. At a word from Henry, Thomas Cromwell is ready to bring her down. Over three terrifying weeks, Anne is ensnared in a web of conspiracy, while the demure Jane Seymour stands waiting her turn for the poisoned wedding ring. But Anne and her powerful family will not yield without a ferocious struggle. Hilary Mantel's Bring Up the Bodies follows the dramatic trial of the queen and her suitors for adultery and treason. To defeat the Boleyns, Cromwell must ally with his natural enemies, the papist aristocracy. What price will he pay for Anne's head?"--… (more)

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