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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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4,5942861,532 (4.32)3 / 792
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English (291)  Dutch (2)  Spanish (1)  German (1)  French (1)  All languages (296)
Showing 1-5 of 291 (next | show all)
I remember finding Wolf Hall a bit of a chore and so I had put off reading this for a while. In the end I found it more accessible than the first perhaps because it covered less ground. Henry still regally petulant and Cromwell still conniving and assured. I wonder whether she'll write another. ( )
  asxz | Mar 13, 2019 |
I am as mesmerised by Bring Up the Bodies as I was confounded by its predecessor Wolf Hall. How, you say, can you trust a reviewer who rates the sequel 5* but the first only 2*? The truth is my ratings are based on how I felt at the end of each novel in isolation and it would be against my conscience to do otherwise.

As James Wood's New Yorker review points out, the beauty of Mantel is she takes you back to the 1500s in only a superficial sense. Some call that a negative. But I'm a strong believer you should separate history from historical fiction: writers of each have their readers, and in each genre you can find works of quality. In this sense, Mantel has succeeded with Bring Up the Bodies. Some passages could be mistaken for scenes and incidents of today. Some political messages are reminiscent of House of Cards. While Bring Up the Bodies is set in the 1500s, the characters are vibrant and feel modern.

The first section nicely summarises Wolf Hall, so well in fact that I would recommend readers who are suffering through the first parts of Wolf Hall to ditch it altogether and start on Bring Up the Bodies. The premise is straightforward and beautifully told. Cromwell, just as Francis Urquhart from House of Cards becomes steadily more influential. His ambition takes precedence over his wants, and throughout he has fond memories of his lost wife and children. The story unfolds, flitting silkily from one scene among jesters, to dukes and lords, to commoners. As you are forced into Cromwell's world and stratagem, one can be forgiven not to challenge Mantel: can one man really yield such power, and was he really so compassionate? His callous treatment of the king's adversaries is somehow redeemed by their inferior personal traits and mockery of Cromwell's first benefactor Wolsey. The last quarter is stunning and makes me keen to read the finale due for release later this year.

Favourite Quotes

Henry VIII is a caricature, dismantled comically:-

"‘God would not allow my pleasure to be contrary to his design, nor my designs to be impeded by his will.’ A shadow of cunning had crossed his face. ‘And Gardiner himself said so.’"

Some authors devote page upon page to drill home a point, but humour achieves the same in fewer words:-

"Once the Vatican lawyers have started a case, they don’t stop just because one of the parties is dead. Possibly, when all of us are dead, from some Vatican oubliette a skeleton secretary will rattle along, to consult his fellow skeletons on a point of canon law."

The last quarter of the book was the highlight. Here's a glimpse of how Mantel describes news spreading across the world:-

"...along the silk routes to China where they have never heard of Henry the eighth of that name, or any other Henry, and even the existence of England is to them a dark myth, a place where men have their mouths in their bellies and women can fly, or cats rule the commonwealth and men crouch at mouse holes to catch their dinner."

Cromwell is astute, and his thoughts bring the analysis to life. I still think Mantel, having taken the bold step to write from Cromwell's perspective, should have been bolder still and written in the first person.

"In any well-ordered country, Suffolk said yesterday, the trial of a noblewoman would be conducted in seemly privacy; he had rolled his eyes and said, but my lord, this is England."

Cromwell isn't the only one aware of the absurdity of the charges made in the second half of the novel:-

"Eventually Cranmer says, ‘We don’t have to make it public. We can issue the decree but keep the grounds secret.’ A release of breath. He says, ‘I suppose it is some consolation, that we need not be laughed at in public.’ The Lord Chancellor says, ‘The truth is so rare and precious that sometimes it must be kept under lock and key.’" ( )
  jigarpatel | Feb 27, 2019 |
Great. ( )
  earlbot88 | Jan 20, 2019 |
It's taken me a while, only because I took a hiatus halfway through while distracted by other things.

There's a whole historical novel industry around Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII. Many have entrenched views, but the truth is we know very little about the background. We know even less about Henry's secretary and chief fixer Thomas Cromwell; we know he came from humble origins and we know that before he worked for Henry he worked for Thomas Wolsey (to get through this book and its predecessor Wolf Hall you really need to get to grips with a multitude of Thomases, every one a real historical figure), the cardinal brought down for obstructing Henry's will; is there a conflict of loyalties behind Cromwell's machiavellian efficiency? Cromwell is one of history's great villains – the way he is taught in English school history anyway ­– but as Hilary Mantel points out, there has never been a proper biography of the man.

This isn't the long-awaited biography. As with Wolf Hall, this is Hilary Mantel's spirited imagination constructing a version of Thomas Cromwell, and an embellished version of the known historical facts as seen through imagined Cromwell's eyes. If this Cromwell is a creation of the imagination he is a very plausible and sympathetic one. He is a good father to his rather gormless son Gregory and a good master to his household. To Henry he is a diligent right-hand man, devoted according to his bond. To the king's enemies including the emissary of the Holy Roman Emperor he is cordial, honest and unpartisan. To those members of the aristocracy and the royal hangers-on who look down their noses at his humble origins he is contemptuous. Towards those who conspired to bring down his dear friend and mentor Wolsey he harbours a silent, dignified fury.

The task laid upon our hero by the king should he wish to take it, and of course he does because that's his job, is to find a way to get Anne out of the way so he can be free to marry his new squeeze Jane Seymour. Cromwell explores the non-messy ways assiduously, but the haughty and bitter Anne isn't playing. Very well then, if Cromwell must play dirty then perhaps he can use the opportunity to settle old scores.

Bring Up The Bodies isn't about Henry VIII but this Henry is an interesting portrayal. He comes across as a large but child-like man who can't bear the thought of not getting his own way. He has no patience with those around him who don't agree with him, though Cromwell has this sussed. He still loves the medieval joust despite the fact that the modern age is getting underway. He kind of reminds me of somebody. I wonder who... ( )
  enitharmon | Jan 14, 2019 |
It's taken me a while, only because I took a hiatus halfway through while distracted by other things.

There's a whole historical novel industry around Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII. Many have entrenched views, but the truth is we know very little about the background. We know even less about Henry's secretary and chief fixer Thomas Cromwell; we know he came from humble origins and we know that before he worked for Henry he worked for Thomas Wolsey (to get through this book and its predecessor Wolf Hall you really need to get to grips with a multitude of Thomases, every one a real historical figure), the cardinal brought down for obstructing Henry's will; is there a conflict of loyalties behind Cromwell's machiavellian efficiency? Cromwell is one of history's great villains – the way he is taught in English school history anyway ­– but as Hilary Mantel points out, there has never been a proper biography of the man.

This isn't the long-awaited biography. As with Wolf Hall, this is Hilary Mantel's spirited imagination constructing a version of Thomas Cromwell, and an embellished version of the known historical facts as seen through imagined Cromwell's eyes. If this Cromwell is a creation of the imagination he is a very plausible and sympathetic one. He is a good father to his rather gormless son Gregory and a good master to his household. To Henry he is a diligent right-hand man, devoted according to his bond. To the king's enemies including the emissary of the Holy Roman Emperor he is cordial, honest and unpartisan. To those members of the aristocracy and the royal hangers-on who look down their noses at his humble origins he is contemptuous. Towards those who conspired to bring down his dear friend and mentor Wolsey he harbours a silent, dignified fury.

The task laid upon our hero by the king should he wish to take it, and of course he does because that's his job, is to find a way to get Anne out of the way so he can be free to marry his new squeeze Jane Seymour. Cromwell explores the non-messy ways assiduously, but the haughty and bitter Anne isn't playing. Very well then, if Cromwell must play dirty then perhaps he can use the opportunity to settle old scores.

Bring Up The Bodies isn't about Henry VIII but this Henry is an interesting portrayal. He comes across as a large but child-like man who can't bear the thought of not getting his own way. He has no patience with those around him who don't agree with him, though Cromwell has this sussed. He still loves the medieval joust despite the fact that the modern age is getting underway. He kind of reminds me of somebody. I wonder who... ( )
  enitharmon | Jan 14, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 291 (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.
 
Geen gehijg tussen de lakens in Bring up the bodies (Het boek Henry), geen hete kussen bij maanlicht. Toch is Hilary Mantels versie van de perikelen van de Tudors de meest opwindende ooit.
 
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.
 

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Hilary Mantelprimary authorall editionscalculated
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.)
Disambiguation notice
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References to this work on external resources.

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)
Just desserts are served,
Uneasy lies the queen's head,
The usurper's fate.
(hillaryrose7)

No descriptions found.

(see all 3 descriptions)

"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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