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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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2,8321982,055 (4.32)3 / 605
Member:akagracie
Title:Bring Up the Bodies
Authors:Hilary Mantel
Info:Henry Holt and Co. (2012), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 432 pages
Collections:Audiobook, Your library
Rating:*****
Tags:Fiction, Read

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Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel (2012)

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English (198)  Dutch (2)  Spanish (1)  German (1)  All languages (202)
Showing 1-5 of 198 (next | show all)
The sequel to Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall, Bring Up the Bodies explores the marriage and downfall of Anne Boleyn, and the role that Thomas Cromwell played in it. No love is lost between Anne and Cromwell. Each has an agenda to please the King. They become pitted against each other, as Cromwell seeks to find a legitimate excuse to expel her from the King's court. Cromwell, always the master politician, uses Anne's fall from grace as a chance to settle scores with old enemies. In addition, there is the quiet and demure Jane Seymour, who has now caught the King’s eye. The politics of the English court come vividly to life in this sequel. I found that the first part of the book was a bit slow (similar to my reaction to Wolf Hall), and it was difficult to keep all the characters straight, but in the end I found it a fascinating look at a chaotic time in history. One other difficulty I had was the almost stream-of-consciousness style the Mantel uses for the portions of the Cromwell narration. She does puts us inside Cromwell's legal mind, always strategizing, always remembering his butcher's son status among the gentry—but at times I found it difficult to always tell who and what was being discussed. All in all a good read. 4 out of 5 stars. ( )
  marsap | Sep 2, 2014 |
The first book was more entertaining, with a timeline covering all of Cromwell's life and rise to power, and with many characters experienced in detail: Cardinal Woolsey, Ann Boleyn, Henry, Thomas Moore, Cromwell's father Walter, wife Liz, daughters Ann and Grace, son Gregory, nephew Richard -- all of whose names I remember because their personalities were so richly drawn. In this second book, the world shrinks, shrinks, shrinks to almost nobody and almost nothing happening. And, it works. It works because the long stretches of boredom, along with Cromwell's tedious rationalizations and machinations, highlight the banality of evil. I don't usually enjoy books from the villain's point of view, but when explored in the context of this actual historical event, I found it to be extremely enlightening. It could have happened like this. ( )
  read.to.live | Aug 28, 2014 |
For me this book defines the elements that are essential to write an award winning historical novel, which is also an absorbing read and a page turner to boot. It won the Man Booker prize in 2012 and was the Costa book of the same year. Critically acclaimed and a popular success story, but how did it achieve all this when it's subject matter was a period of English history awash with historical novels. The story of Anne Boleyn's fall from power, her execution and Henry VIII's subsequent marriage to Jane Seymour is well known to most casual observers of English History; they may even be aware of the role of Thomas Cromwell and Thomas Cranmer and so how does Hilary Mantel succeed in bringing new life to this story without meddling with historical accuracy?

The trick she pulls off so magnificently is to let her characters talk their way through the history. We know many of the facts, but what we do not know is what they said to each other, she fills in these spaces between the facts. Like it's predecessor [Wolf Hall] this her latest novel is brim full of dialogue. This can be treacherous ground for a novelist who concerns herself with historical accuracy and so she needs to make the reader believe that her characters might have said what she says they said. Here is an example; Thomas Cromwell was trained as a lawyer, he became a consummate statesman and took a leading role in steering Henry VIII towards making Anne Boleyn his queen, but now Henry wants rid of her and so it falls on Cromwell to find a means to this end. Cromwell hears rumours about Anne and when he finds that there has been an accidental fire in her bed chamber he calls in Jane Rochford, one of her ladies in waiting and their conversation goes like this:

Jane Rochford is on her high horse: she thinks he is attempting to blame her. "Look, Master Secretary (Cromwell). Shall I be plain with you?"
"I wish you would."
"First this is a household matter. It is not within your remit. Second, she was in no danger. Third, I do not know who lit the candle. Four, if I did I would not tell you."
He waits.
"Five, no one else will tell you either
He waits.
"If as it may happen, some person visits the queen after the lights are out, then it is an event over which we should draw a veil"
"Some person" He digests this "Some person for the purpose of arson, or for purposes of something else?"
"For the usual purposes of bed chambers" she says. "Not that I say there is such a person. I would not have any knowledge of it. The queen knows how to keep her secrets."
"Jane" he says "if the time comes when you wish to disburden your conscience, do not go to a priest, come to me. The priest will give you a penance, but I will give you a reward."


Clearly this dialogue is not how they would have spoken to each other; for example Tudor English would need to be translated for the modern reader and I am not sure that Master Secretary would address a lady in waiting to the queen on such familiar terms, but Mantel cleverly uses the dialogue to flesh out her characters and there is no modern usage of words that screams out to the reader as being so out of place. We are left with the idea conversations like this could well have taken place.

Thomas Cromwell is centre stage and the reader sees the world largely through his eyes. Little is known about his origins apart from his claim that he was a ruffian and so Mantel can invent his background to fit her story. She places him as a son of a Blacksmith who was abused by his father. She say he made his own way in the world first as a soldier of fortune then as lawyer. His rise to power started with his service to Cardinal Wolsey, working his way to become his secretary. When Wolsey was jailed for treason Cromwell managed to distance himself far enough to become a useful tool for Henry VIII. He owed his position to Henry VIII and knew that he stood or fell according to the whim of the king. Cromwell is an infighter but he is an outsider in Henry's court, because he cannot claim noble birth and so Mantel can use the background she has invented to give additional reasons for his action. He wants revenge for the overthrow of Wolsey and he wants to curb the power of the courtiers. He obviously elicits sympathy from the reader, but I think Mantel overdoes this a little when she claims that he was also a reformer who wanted to help the under privileged.

Mantel does not enter into the controversy of the reformation to any great degree, but as it must it keeps pace with her story. Anne was a protestant and claimed she was working to further her cause with the king. Cromwell remains a catholic but his position is never really clear. Henry's daughter Mary a devout catholic is ostracised and in mortal danger from Anne and looms in the background. The intrigue, the violence, the dangers of being in service to Henry VIII are well portrayed. The courtiers, the statesmen, those in waiting are continually looking over their shoulder. It is a dog eat dog world and Mantel does not shy away from her depiction of it as such. Mantel writes in such a way that actions taken are believable and even forgivable. Henry VIII was not a perfect king nor even a very good one, but he knew what he had to do to keep the Tudors in power. He needed men like Cromwell around him but they were expendable and he was not.

I think Mantel has captured the politics, the atmosphere, of life in and around Henry VIII 's court. Her portrayal of Tudor England (those parts that her characters see) feels right. Her characterisations are wonderfully well drawn and interact in ways that move her story on to it's inevitable conclusion. We all know what happened, but Mantel convincingly tells us, some of how and why it might have happened. The dangers are that her story telling is so compulsive that we will believe everything she writes. Is this how History is re-written I ask myself, I don't care because I enjoyed the book so much and so 4.5 stars ( )
6 vote baswood | Aug 10, 2014 |
Well, after the first novel about Thomas Cromwell I was sure that I would read part two of the trilogy as well. And my trip to London was the perfect background for this intriguing story about the life (and death) of so many people.
Like a game of chess people fight one another, manoeuvre and try to beat the queen to get to the king. In this part it's all about the queen Anna Boleyn who is losing her power to bewitch the king after she failed to give him a son and who is far to self-centred to realise that people don't like her. Now it's Thomas Cromwell's task to get rid of her. Well, it's bring up the bodies and several possible ways. Very impressing. The tough read is really worthwhile. ( )
  Kaysbooks | Aug 10, 2014 |
Not as good as Wolf Hall. Better.

Better because, while the second person narrative isn’t as surprising, this is inexorable. Essentially it’s the tragedy of Anne Boleyn. Spoiler warnings are redundant; anyone who’s even faintly au fait with the Henry VIII’s marital history knows how this is going to end before the first page is turned. It fashions the ambiguities around Anne’s demise into slow burning revenge from Thomas Cromwell on all who’ve wronged him, here the masterly manipulator he was moving toward becoming in the first book. He weaves his plans carefully, building up to it through the first half of the book before unleashing damnation on his opposition in the book’s second half – the temptation to compare it to a spider spinning its web is likely to be irresistible. And yet, as we see things from Cromwell’s viewpoint throughout, we cannot pity those he breaks. Most are led there by their own foolishness and ignorance of who might be paying attention to their careless cruelties. And sooner or later they pay for that carelessness. This is a bleak world where money and power is all and everything depends on a capricious king.

This strikes me as the crucial book in the trilogy in terms of character. Wolf Hall was about Cromwell’s rise, The Mirror And The Light will be about his fall. This is Cromwell in his pomp, the invincible master of fate. This is where we see what makes him enough of a fascinating character for a novelist to exhume his story nearly five centuries later. Of course caveats about artistic licence apply, but Mantel convinces by weaving her tale around the facts we know of the time. In terms of modern storytelling, this is the showing of Cromwell’s genius, not the telling. And in those terms, hooking the crux of Cromwell’s tale around one of the most infamous events in the history of the British monarchy, Mantel cements Wolf Hall’s success and turns the trilogy into one of the finest literary achievements of modern times.

Sometimes, with what seems the infrequency of sun drenched British summers, the Booker judges do get things right. On the evidence so far, we can expect another fine summer soon enough with the concluding volume. ( )
  JonArnold | Aug 9, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 198 (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.
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(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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