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Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
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Bring Up the Bodies (original 2012; edition 2012)

by Hilary Mantel

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2,7361892,151 (4.33)3 / 593
Member:sydamy
Title:Bring Up the Bodies
Authors:Hilary Mantel
Info:Fourth Estate (2012), Hardcover
Collections:Your library, Prize Winners/Nominees
Rating:*****
Tags:2012, fiction, own, historical fiction, e-book, series, England, Henry VIII, Booker Prize winner, ToB

Work details

Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel (2012)

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English (190)  Dutch (2)  Spanish (2)  German (1)  All languages (195)
Showing 1-5 of 190 (next | show all)
This Book is a great work of Historical Fiction great storyline. ( )
  maximeg | Jul 14, 2014 |
I found this book really hard going. The writing style making it a slog to get through; it was enjoyable only in small parts. ( )
  lozbeth1 | Jul 7, 2014 |
Well written, but I found this book hard going - historical fiction is not really my thing. Recommended only for those with an interest in the political intrigue of King Henry VIII's court. ( )
  cazfrancis | Jul 1, 2014 |
More enjoyable, more emotionally gripping, and more readable than Wolf Hall. Equally well written, unique and immersive. But somehow just a little more conventional and less interesting. But if you have not read Wolf Hall, Bringing up the Bodies works perfectly fine as a standalone book--you'll just need to reference the Cast of Characters slightly more often than readers of the previous book would have to.

Bringing Up the Bodies is much more focused than Wolf Hall, covering an eight month period and focused around a single drama: the King's souring on Anne Boleyn, starting to fall for Jane Seymour, the gathering of evidence and eventual downfall, trial and execution of Anne and a number of other members of her household. All of this takes on uniqueness and interest through the eyes of the ambitious, ruthless and highly skilled Thomas Cromwell (although again in the slightly-less-annoying this time around third person) who, conveniently for this book, is present for virtually every event of importance in the narrative. Once again watching a commoner manipulate nobles through a combination of his greater financial savvy, psychological acuity, and ability to divide and conquer, is almost endlessly interesting.

Like Wolf Hall, Bringing Up the Bodies is a historical recreation, based on what seems to be careful research and a thoughtful attempt to stick as closely as possible to a plausible version of the story, refracted through Cromwell's eyes. As such, it is worlds apart from the detached, postmodern and non-omniscient narration of HHhH.

As for the way in which Wolf Hall was better, one is just the natural tendency to want to think anything that long must be proportionately good. But it also had a greater and looser variety of incidents, covering a longer period of time and showing Cromwell in more varied settings (as a boy, as a protege of Cardinal Wolsey, and skillfully surviving Wolsey's death to rise in his own right). In a way, Wolf Hall felt more like a loose baggy monster to Bringing Up the Bodies more focused novel, but there is something enjoyable about a well crafted loose baggy monster. ( )
  nosajeel | Jun 21, 2014 |
I began reading this book with trepidation because I was dissatisfied with her earlier novel, Wolf Hall. Fortunately I was quickly disabused of this notion and found myself truly enjoying the narrative and style of this second volume of a planned trilogy, although I could not find any characters that I really liked.
The novel spans the death of one spurned Queen (Katherine) and the execution of another. It displays an Anne Boleyn reduced in power—“her dark glitter, now rubbed a little, flaking in places” (36)—to one encircled, tried, and eventually executed, flattened to a “puddle of gore”(397). This is not a novel about Queen Anne, however, so much as a continuation of Mantel’s thorough and interesting portrait of the man in charge of underwriting her doom, Thomas Cromwell. Mantel portrays a Cromwell as a penetrating and unsettling man who “has a way of getting his way . . . [who] will explain to a man where his true interests lie, and . . . introduce that same man to aspects of himself he didn’t know existed” (6).

Later in the novel this passage sums up Cromwell's mission:
“Rafe asks him, could the king's freedom be obtained, sir, with more economy of means? Less bloodshed?
Look, he says: once you have exhausted the process of negotiation and compromise, once you have fixed on the destruction of an enemy, that destruction must be swift and it must be perfect. Before you even glance in his direction, you should have his name on a warrant, the ports blocked, his wife and friends bought, his heir under your protection, his money in your strong room and his dog running to your whistle. Before he wakes in the morning, you should have the axe in your hand.”

After the death of Thomas More (in the previous novel) the Church and State are one under the mastery of Henry VIII. And immediately under Henry is Thomas Cromwell, a Machiavellian who finds Machiavelli’s book “trite,” a statesman who can crush a man’s life with a single word (71). He is also brilliant, untiring, and capable of deep loyalty and surprising acts of kindness and charity. Mantel presents through Cromwell's eyes an England teeming with beauty as well as with cruelty and death: a landscape where “each leaf of a tree, the sun behind it, [hangs] like a golden pear” (8). Cromwell is, like many of Mantel’s fictional characters, an outsider—in this case, one that cannot forget his own history, retaining empathy for the maltreated, the poor and ill-bred. His is the oblique gaze of a modern: even as he carries out the King’s dark orders, Cromwell imagines an England with better roads built from taxes levied on the wealthy (43). The court may scorn him as “a blacksmith’s boy,” but Cromwell is convinced a man can rise from humble origins: “In a generation everything can change” (43). However, I am not sure he is completely convinced of this as he is continually under pressure to carry out Henry's wishes. Thinking about writing a book about Henry Cromwell imagines a faux Henry in his mind as he remembers Erasmus's words: "you should praise a ruler even for the qualities he does not have. For the flattery gives him to think. And the qualities he presently lacks, he might go to work on them." (67) This is a dream for the lies abound and the deeds are often bloody, but the nobles and courtiers who are affected are not a sympathetic lot. The whole crowd of primary players resemble nothing better than a nest of vipers.
As the novel winds its way to the expected denouement Thomas Cromwell plays families against one another and uses the fear of Henry as a trump card. The result are indictments of the Queen and her "conspirators".
"When the indictments come to his hand, he see at once that, though the script is a clerk's the king has been at work. He can hear the king's voice in every line: his outrage, jealousy, fear." (346) They are filled with details about kisses, touchings, gifts, and multiple dates of offences, so "if there is specific denial of one date, one place, it will not be enough to injure the whole." (347)

There are some warm moments between Cromwell and his son Gregory, but by the end of the novel he is preparing Gregory for the realities of adulthood by bringing him to witness, albeit kneeling and bowed, the beheading of Anne Boleyn. In spite of the bloody politics of state among mostly detestable characters the tautly-written narrative was appealing and presented the events in a more understandable manner than the first volume. This is a historical novel worth reading for its insights into events that most will be familiar with before they open page one. ( )
  jwhenderson | Jun 6, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 190 (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)
 

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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.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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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