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Bring Up the Bodies: A Novel (John Macrae…
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Bring Up the Bodies: A Novel (John Macrae Book) (original 2012; edition 2012)

by Hilary Mantel

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Title:Bring Up the Bodies: A Novel (John Macrae Book)
Authors:Hilary Mantel
Info:Henry Holt and Co. (2012), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 432 pages
Collections:Your library, historical fiction
Rating:****1/2
Tags:None

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Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel (2012)

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English (181)  Dutch (2)  Spanish (2)  German (1)  All languages (186)
Showing 1-5 of 181 (next | show all)
Methinks this would have done better in my opinion had I gone back to the beginning soon before plunging into this continuation. Then again, perhaps not. Midway points are inherently weak, especially in an expected trilogy where the first has the beginning flush and the third has the ending triumph, so a rereading of Wolf Hall may have led to a compare and contrast with this latter day sequel coming out last. Also, there are so many other unread tomes calling my name. Also, I'm lazy. There you have it.

Thus, during the course of this I relied on what repetitions Mantel would grant me in terms of what went on in the first, as my brain has no interest in retaining footnotes of what went where, when happened this, why were they killed, etc. Lucky for me, she delivered, so I was well content in my decision to forge ahead two and a half years after the fact with nary a conscientious reviewing of previous material. However, what stuck with me through the intervening days and pieces of literature was that singular feeling of awe at how this work of historical fiction had been accomplished, this Wolf Hall that wrapped itself around the reader and sunk its tendrils deep into the bones. You would've thought Cromwell a past reincarnation of Mantel, so effortlessly on pulse point the writing was.

That feeling was still there here, but to a lesser extent, as the years of reading [b:Memoirs of Hadrian|12172|Memoirs of Hadrian|Marguerite Yourcenar|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1388196855s/12172.jpg|1064574] and the like have done their work on me and opened my eyes to the tricks of the trade of fictional enshrouding. Don't misunderstand, this is still a masterwork of historical fiction that questions the boundaries of its genre and puts the majority of its fellow denizens to shame, but there was a little too much wittily entitled closure for my tastes. I called Cromwell a 'BAMF' in my review of WH, and here that epithetic slang of a title still holds, but it is tiring when the main character has the drop on every thing and one and soul and proclaims it on every page. True, there is his tragic history to account for,the death of his wife and two daughters hitting especially hard every so often but when everything is said and done, his heart rate remains at a steady self-assured rate for far too long to merit my completely enraptured interest.

As for the rest of the characters and events and plot and whatnot, it's all Cromwell thanks to the point of view, is it not? You see everyone else succumb to his machinations, whether in the jocund pleasings of the king or the crying and quaking of everyone else, you get bits and pieces of Cromwell's life and times whenever the memory strikes during the appropriate instigating of recollection, but very little of that receives an equally stirring reaction within the soul of the ubiquitous he. Perhaps it was the shortened time span of the sequel (nine months compared to seven years), the myriad characters (I've never had a head for names), or the sheer quantity of speedy manipulation required of a third person narrator (a wealth of information and yet the veil remains) that rendered each climax rote and file and standardized expectations. There is no mystery as to what is going to occur, history being what it is, but the uniformity of Cromwell's capability in contrast to everyone accepting him as such and shortchanging themselves accordingly grew a little stale after the umpteenth time of pride and fall and repeat. Once I was sad to think on Cromwell's inevitable downfall, but now, the novelty of watching the walls close in around him without a chance of his usual escape is intriguing. Sadistic, but true.

In short, while my childhood interest in the Tudors was satisfied, my standards for historical fiction, and indeed the potential of fiction in general, were not. However, I am still very much looking forward to the final concluding work. And, I will reiterate to any nonbelievers in the realm of historical fiction out there: this is the trilogy for you.

P.S. Also [b:Memoirs of Hadrian|12172|Memoirs of Hadrian|Marguerite Yourcenar|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1388196855s/12172.jpg|1064574]. In case you weren't taking notes. ( )
1 vote Korrick | Mar 30, 2014 |
I tend to give historical fiction the side-eye, as so much of it is just romance with a historical overlay and bad writing. But this, and its predecessor, Wolf Hall, are two of the best novels I've read. I have a mental Venn diagram that I apply to books, similar to the Fast, Good, Cheap one that is often applied to work product. My book diagram includes Plot, Characterization, and Language. I often find books (that I fully enjoy!) that are strong on plot, but iffy on characterization, and downright pedestrian in language. Sometimes, I find books that are incredible on the language front, but with unbelievable characters and little to no plot. And, occasionally, there are even those with great characters stuck with lame plots and awful language (but, I suspect that's really hard to pull off.)

These two books by Hilary Mantel manage the trifecta! The plot is engrossing, the characters distinct, believable, and strong, and the language sublime.

I feel compelled to explain that I give it only 4 stars because I reserve 5 for those books that "blow my mind" in some way. Bring up the Bodies, being the second in this series, didn't quite hit that note, but it comes darned close. ( )
  duende | Feb 6, 2014 |
Bring Up the Bodies continues the novelization of the life of Thomas Cromwell, chief minister to King Henry VIII of England from 1532 to 1540.  In this 2012 Man Booker Prize-winning sequel to Hilary Mantel's 2009 Booker winning Wolf Hall, the brief period of September 1535 to summer 1536 is covered.  Mantel tells the well-known story of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn from another viewpoint.

In her author's note at the end of her book, Hilary Mantel says, "In
this book I try to show how a few crucial weeks might have looked from
Thomas Cromwell's point of view.  I am not claiming authority for my version; I am making the reader a proposal, an offer.  Some familiar aspects of the story are not to be found in this novel."

While writing about Anne's last days and reviewing historical sources, Mantel saw the legal phrase, “Bring up the bodies” (the command to the jailer to bring to their trial those who, because they are accused of treason, are regarded as already dead), “and they jumped off the page. And at that point I thought, I have a book, and I have a title, and it ends with Anne’s death,” Mantel said in a May 7, 2012 Telegraph interview.  The title first appears in the text on page 364 in the hardcover edition, just 43 pages before its end.

Cromwell is not as likeable in this novel as he was in Wolf Hall.  He is feeling his power, and the memories of his dead wife and daughters are fading.  By the end, he's starting to sound like Henry VIII, wondering if his wife was always faithful to him and if his youngest daughter was truly his.  There is a clever but menacing device in the book that relates back to an incident in Wolf Hall, that shows why Cromwell may have targeted four of the five men accused as Anne's lovers.

The incomparable Simon Vance narrates this audiobook, and makes it easy to distinguish between characters.  Like Wolf Hall in 2010, this audiobook also won the Audie Award for Literary Fiction in 2013. Once again, though, the print version has the advantage of a table of contents, list of characters, and family trees for the Tudors and the Yorkist claimants to the throne.  A map would have been helpful for those of us not as familiar with England.

The cover on the audiobook and the hardbound edition I used has a portion of a portrait of Anne Boleyn on it.  However, I prefer the cover with the shadow of the descending falcon. The book begins at Wolf Hall, the family home of Henry's current infatuation, Jane Seymour, with Cromwell out hunting with falcons named for his dead daughters, wife, and sisters.  I think it's a more fitting image, especially with the title.   I have to wonder if Cromwell really gave his birds those names, for Mantel says (in the same interview mentioned above) that “I try to make up as little as possible.”

© Amanda Pape - 2014

[The audiobook was borrowed and returned to my university library, while a print copy for reference was borrowed and returned to my local public library. A version of this review also appears on Bookin' It.] ( )
3 vote riofriotex | Jan 31, 2014 |
This took a lot of getting into, but once I did I was engrossed by the detail of this world, and by the shenanigans of the protagonists. ( )
  Jemima_Pett | Jan 24, 2014 |
It took me quite a long time to read this book. I put it down a few times and read something else in the middle. Although the story is compelling, it is a little too drawn out. However, I did enjoy the book, and as with the last one, I found it an eye-opening view on life in Tudor England. ( )
  jvgravy | Jan 9, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 181 (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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