Thursday, December 06, 2012

Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel

I could go on about how much I loved this, but I won’t. I don’t want to embarrass myself with my breathless fangirl adoration. And Mantel has received enough accolades from the public and the literati to more than convince you that it’s not just me who loved it. But what I will do is urge you to read it.

Maybe you aren’t interested in British history and don’t know Thomas Cromwell from Oliver Cromwell. Maybe you are afraid the books are too long and you will lose steam and want to read something else. Maybe you feel like you’ve read too much Philippa Gregory or you watched all of The Tudors on Showtime, and you simply can’t hear another thing about Anne Boleyn. To all this I say phooey, don’t let these fears get in your way. Be brave! Just start reading it (well, technically, start with Wolf Hall, if you haven’t read that). Because if you skip these books it means you won’t get to meet one of the most compelling characters in modern fiction: Thomas Cromwell, Minister of Everything (according to Mantel), loyal, shrewd, witty, sexy, dangerous, resourceful, patient, and wise. And you will miss Mantel’s brilliant writing, writing that can make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. As an example, here is Cromwell’s advice to his nephew about how to get the best of one’s opponent:
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. 

Okay that just gives me chills. This is the best book I've read all year.

(Book 31, 2012)

5 comments:

Shelley said...

Yes. It takes courage to read a long one.

L.A. said...

I have avoided reading these because of the reasons you just listed. Your impassioned review, however, makes me reconsider!

Meerabai said...

review If there ever was a sequel, this is it. It draws heavily form the prequel (even tiny details you thought inconsequential and irritating then), maintains the tone style pace and form, and yet maintains an identity enough to capture and make the new reader (unknown to the prequel) comfortable.
Hillary Mantel has nicely wrapped up, staged and done justice to the historical nature of the destruction of Anne Boleyn, and all that the prequel was building up to (That becoming noticeable only in hindsight).

Another point that i appreciated about this was the correction of sorts that was done to the pronoun confusion in Wolf Hall (i.e. all the 'he' is referred to Cromwell by default) by marking a 'He, Cromwell, says/ thinks etc...', especially in places more prone to confusion.

Like like. :)

Gold Beach Oregon Fishing said...

Mantel's elegant command of the English language makes her books a joy to read; her knowledge of Ann Boleyn, Henry VIII, Cromwell -- plus a large cast of minor characters -- is impressive. It's hard to find good historical fiction that doesn't devolve into romance or a little too much artistic license on the part of the author. Mantel writes good solid history made fascinating.

Jeremy Bell said...

This novel is the second book of a trilogy based on the life of Thomas Cromwell. Hilary Mantel's first book, Wolf Hall: A Novel won the Man Booker Award, and deservedly so.

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