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Bring Up the Bodies    by Hilary Mantel order for
Bring Up the Bodies
by Hilary Mantel
Order:  USA  Can
Henry Holt, 2012 (2012)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Barbara Lingens

Hilary Mantel writes historical fiction like no other. We are brought in to the interior life of her character. Instead of viewing only deeds, we get personal thoughts, reasoning, excuse and judgment. It is very exhilarating since we know we are in the hands of a truly knowledgeable scholar but still a little bit scary because what if she is wrong?

In Bring Up the Bodies we have the continuation of Thomas Cromwell's life, which was begun in Wolf Hall and by the end of this book still has a ways to go. While Wolf Hall showed Cromwell's slow rise to power and ability to be of use to Henry VIII, Bring Up the Bodies is the story of Anne Boleyn's downfall and Cromwell's role in orchestrating it. The queen, having finally achieved some degree of legitimacy, especially after Catherine's death, is unable to produce a male heir. Always surrounded by men who adore her, she suffers the court's gossip while Henry's eyes have fallen on Jane Seymour. It is harrowing stuff, as the book's title attests.

It is not necessary to have read Wolf Hall to understand what is happening here, and this novel is not quite so complicated with characters and plots. However the reader is certainly grateful for the Cast of Characters. Also, a marked improvement here is that at least sometimes the antecedent of he is explained. It is fascinating to get such a nuanced look at a character who is usually portrayed negatively, but even so we, as well as his enemies, cannot escape the conclusion that the power he has is not always wielded for the greater good. It will be interesting to see how Mantel handles Cromwell's fall.

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