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374 of 399 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 'But that was long ago and in another country'
'His children are falling from the sky,' is the arresting opening sentence of the second novel in Mantel's trilogy, exploring the life of Thomas Cromwell at the court of Henry VIII. Hawks at the king's hunting party in Wiltshire have been named after Cromwell's dead daughters, an odd memorial, but one that immediately reminds us of Cromwell's loss of those dear to him,...
Published on 15 May 2012 by purpleheart

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148 of 169 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful prose but not the equal of Wolf Hall
Had Amazon given me the option, I think I would have given this 3.5 stars. It's a beautifully written book which is, at times, touching, funny, tense and always intelligent. I certainly devoured it. Nevertheless, I found it a lesser novel to Wolf Hall for several reasons. (Minor spoilers below if you are not familiar with Tudor history).

Firstly, whilst it...
Published on 11 Jun 2012 by Amazon Customer


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374 of 399 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 'But that was long ago and in another country', 15 May 2012
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purpleheart (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Bring Up the Bodies (Hardcover)
'His children are falling from the sky,' is the arresting opening sentence of the second novel in Mantel's trilogy, exploring the life of Thomas Cromwell at the court of Henry VIII. Hawks at the king's hunting party in Wiltshire have been named after Cromwell's dead daughters, an odd memorial, but one that immediately reminds us of Cromwell's loss of those dear to him, and the cut-throat world in which he is now a key player. 'When they look down they see nothing but their prey, and the borrowed plumes of the hunters; they see a flittering, flinching universe, a universe filled with their dinner.'

As has been observed by others, Mantel is writing at the height of her powers and her language is full of delights. She doesn't burden us with her research, which effortlessly provides the structure to her novel - it is her sensory description which allows us to think we know what it is to inhabit the world of Henry Tudor. She conjures up - with even more skill perhaps - the workings of Cromwell's mind and the political machinations required to serve his king and to remove and execute a queen, according to the law of England. Cromwell has read Machiavelli and clearly thinks he could write better if he had the time - but there are always papers, always business to be attended to if the kingdom is to prosper.

Wolf Hall is an extraordinary novel, fully deserving of its prizes and the praise it gathered; Bring Up the Bodies is its near equal. If Wolf Hall was very much about the fall of Wolsey and the rise of Cromwell to high office, Bring Up the Bodies is about Cromwell holding on to power while Anne Boleyn loses it, and the cost of that to both. Mantel is writing a trilogy and this makes sense for the second act. Wolsey is still a character in this novel; his spirit guiding Cromwell, his loyalties and actions. Anne Boleyn loses her influence when she fails to provide Henry with a son and heir. Cromwell and Anne Boleyn supported each other in their rise to power but Cromwell notes the signs that the king's interest is moving and determines not to repeat Wolsey's mistake of not fulfilling the king's wishes quickly enough. The long-standing fascination with the Tudors is such that most of us know the plot - but Mantel triumphs in creating suspense and pathos for Anne and in keeping us strongly aligned with Cromwell's point of view, even as he schemes and orchestrates the evidence against her.

About halfway though the novel there is an pivotal scene where Henry is believed dead after a jousting accident. Mantel describes Cromwell's thought processes as the court panics and the country is on the brink of chaos. One moment he is caught up in emotion as he gazes at the king, 'Henry is waxen, and he sees the shocking tenderness of human flesh evicted from steel. He is lying on his back, all his magnificent height stretched out on a piece of ocean-blue cloth. His limbs are straight. He looks uninjured. He touches his face. It is still warm. Fate has not spoiled him or mangled. He is intact, a present for the gods. They are taking him back as he was sent.' The next moment he is thinking how he will pre-empt a civil war. It is a tour de force which both informs us of Cromwell's character, allowing us to make sense of his later actions, and gives us some insight into the fragility of the peace the Tudor reign has brought.

Henry's fickleness is clear throughout this novel, the renaissance prince is shown to be increasingly narcissistic and Cromwell has to draw on all his powers to manage him. It was part of Hilary Mantel's genius to tell this story from Cromwell's viewpoint. He is a man who has gained power through merit and hard work rather than by birth and privilege - and that appeals to our age and sensibilities. He is powerful and yet he knows that his power is vested in the king and in the value he brings him. Later in the novel Henry convulses with rage and says 'I really believe, Cromwell, that you think you are king, and I am the blacksmith's boy.' Cromwell is able to avert Henry's rage - whilst thinking that Henry would not have survived the smithy and the need for a cool head around fire and molten metal - but he knows that he will only survive if he gives the king money and the possibility of peace and an heir and so he goes to work.

Mantel has a mischievous way of inserting lines into her narrative that seem to come from Elizabethan plays not yet written - just one more enjoyable part of this rich and exciting novel.

If you read nothing else this summer - read this
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44 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fine body of work, 14 Aug 2012
This review is from: Bring Up the Bodies (Hardcover)
After the superbly crafted Wolf Hall no one could have expected the sequel, Bring Up The Bodies to extend and develop the stylistic writing and brilliantly realized imagery- and yet it does, triumphantly so that as a deliberately shorter 'middle book' of a trilogy the story of Cromwell and the fall of Ann Boleyn, is both dark and totally gripping. This is no filler middle book but a brilliant tour de force of daring and beautiful writing. Whilst in Wolf Hall the narrative imagery and establishment of characters/setting seemed to dominate here it is the dialogue sequences that stand out with wonderfully crafted confrontations between Cromwell and Boleyn and as her world implodes the supposed "lovers" that Cromwell entraps. The daring also comes in Cromwell's thought world as he occasionally lapses into fantasy reverie about the situations that he both creates and is entangled in. His increasing isolation (as he works late and almost constantly) is offset by endless summonses and orders from the king to deal with Boleyn and engineer the marriage to Jane Seymour. In the background there are constant references to Wolsey and More as victims of the kings capricious whims or Boleyns supposed scheming. Within all this Mantel finds time for dark humour (call me rizly) and the wonderful mangling of his name in mock affectionate terms (Henry calls him crumb, Boleyn mangles his name in pseudo French pronunciation) so that he appears to be a shapeshifter- Cromwell uses a protean and prodigious energy to serve all his "masters" whilst himself remaining the master of his own destiny, yet enemies remind him of his probable fate under Henry if he puts a foot wrong. Mantel is highly skilled, sincere and totally in control of her material. Originally this was never intended to be a trilogy but as a reader I am grateful for one more volume that will see Cromwell meet his maker- for now mantel is his maker and overall she has produced a stunning piece of work- worthy of the booker longlist and a good tip to win overall. Its a mesmerising read in what will be Mantels tour de force- her finest body of work.
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148 of 169 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful prose but not the equal of Wolf Hall, 11 Jun 2012
By 
Amazon Customer (Leamington Spa, Warwickshire United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Bring Up the Bodies (Hardcover)
Had Amazon given me the option, I think I would have given this 3.5 stars. It's a beautifully written book which is, at times, touching, funny, tense and always intelligent. I certainly devoured it. Nevertheless, I found it a lesser novel to Wolf Hall for several reasons. (Minor spoilers below if you are not familiar with Tudor history).

Firstly, whilst it carried on the tale of Cromwell, I didn't feel that it added much thematically to what had already been explored in Wolf Hall. There were additional considerations on statecraft and age but so much territory had already been covered that it felt like an addendum to the previous novel rather than a discreet work. Compare it, for example, to "I, Claudius" and "Claudius the God", which tell two halves of a story but use the two halves to explore quite distinct themes; consequently, both Claudius novels feel fresh in a way that Bring up the Bodies doesn't.

I also found the plot less rewarding - I think because it deals with a difficult transitory period concerning the pomp and fall of Anne Boleyn. Therefore, the actions lend themselves less easily to a novel than the passage of Cromwell from Putney bruiser to Master of the Rolls and Secretary to the King as told in Wolf Hall. There is a less clear direction of travel for our main protagonist and he has less agency in the journey he goes on, at times seemingly 'going through the motions'. This sets up some nice comparisons with the fall of Wolsey but I couldn't escape the feeling that the interrogation of Boleyn's lovers, for example, was a less brilliant literary execution (pardon the pun) than that of Thomas More in the first novel. It just seemed more pedestrian and, I think, that is because Mantel had less juicy historical ingredients to play with.

I can't help but feel that this is a bridging novel (I believe there is a third novel en route?) and, consequently, is largely designed to get the main characters from the end of Wolf Hall (the 'rise of Cromwell') to the beginning of the next novel (the 'fall of Cromwell'). That is not to say that it isn't good - it is very good - but whereas Wolf Hall was a book that functioned wonderfully as a self contained exploration of plot, character and theme this novel lacks both the internal coherence of those three factors and the excitement of so much novelty and invention.

I can't help but wish that Mantel had cleansed her pallet with another project between Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies so she could come to the material fresh. Sadly, I imagine that the effort of holding the life of Cromwell and the constituent themes of the book is too taxing to break it up like that!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Hard work!, 18 Dec 2013
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Mrs. K. Riley "mrskriley" (London) - See all my reviews
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I was really looking forward to this book, about Thomas Cromwell, a senior figure in Henry VIII's court - I love the era. But the tone of the prose makes this really heavy going. Some lovely imagery and scenes, and the characterisation is well-drawn, but the prose... I just wasn't entertained by it and gave up after a couple of chapters, which I don't feel good about. I guess if you like Mantel's style, then you'll love this. I just like something with more energy.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I could not believe this won the Booker Prize, 12 Dec 2013
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I found this book boring. It read like a school history lesson with a bit of sex thrown in. It is still getting good revues everywhere I see it mentioned so it must be me. If I read a good book I cannot put it down. This took months to read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bring Up the Bodies, 31 Aug 2013
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An interesting insight into this particular time in history. The style of writing gave the impression of it being written as it would have been spoken at the time. It also posed questions about the facts upon which Anne Bolyne was convicted and executed and the motives behind those implicated in her downfall.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Can't wait for Book 3, 30 April 2013
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This review is from: Bring Up the Bodies (Hardcover)
I so enjoyed Wolf Hall that I downloaded this as soon as I'd finished it. Bring Up The Bodies did not disappoint and now I can't wait until the final one of the trilogy comes out. The writing is wonderful, the research is magnificent and the people are utterly believable. I have studied this period of history in some depth and all her portrayals have the ring of truth about them. I could find no fault at all with this book.
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32 of 37 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Dense, but not deep, 6 Jun 2013
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This sequel fails to deliver the interest and and colour of Wolf Hall, and overall is pedestrian and boring.

Mantel persists in her strange narrative style: third person, with Cromwell often only referred to as 'he', with a first person's perspective. A new innovation is the awful phrase 'he, Cromwell', rather than just 'Cromwell' which makes the English appear worse, rather than better. As well as confusing the reader (with no gain in terms of more sophisticated understanding), this clumsy form of expression can lead to daft writing, such as "The earl is on his feet. He remains seated."

The readability of the novel is further diminished by the poor use of paragraphs, extraordinarily long chapters, and the lack of clear breaks between different scenes. I expect that everyone reads for a limited period at a time - certainly not for 150 pages without a break. Without obvious breaks in the text, and the tendency to segue directly from one event to the next, there is no logical place to stop reading, and when starting to read again, I often had to back track to find the thread of the narrative again. The novel has a 'stream of consciousness'feel to it, without the depth or insight that usually accompanies this style of writing, and gives no consideration to how the reader might respond to the text.

I've read many, many novels in my time, some quite long and demanding, eg Tolstoy's 'War and Peace', and 'Anna Karenina'. I don't mind thinking hard to get full value from the text, but in this case, I felt that maintaining the concentration required was more akin to understanding a tedious tax form, rather than appreciating literary depth.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What can you say? It's Hilary Mantel., 23 Mar 2014
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This review is from: Bring Up the Bodies (Paperback)
Superb novel. Even though I know the history very well of this period and knew exactly who would be getting it in the neck when and how it was still a real page turner simply to find out how Ms Mantel would handle a situation; never disappointed. Some new takes, new side long looks at things. Good stuff. Only thing was her editor seems to have decided that it was too confusing to simply refer to Cromwell as "he" without a specific reference. The first novel was a tad confusing to start with until you realised that every time she wrote "he" she referred to Cromwell even if the subject of the sentence was really someone else. In this book someone has decided to clumsily attach Cromwell to the sentence eg "The night was dark, he, Cromwell, ..." But can't wait for the next one.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bring up the Bodies, 2 Jan 2014
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In contrast to the first novel;Wolf Hall, I found this book more compelling and the pace of narrative much swifter as the plot moved towards it's inevitable conclusion. Cromwell is ever more assured of his own competence but paradoxically of his vulnerability in the face of the next wave of ambition from those surrounding him.
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Bring Up the Bodies
Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel (Hardcover - 10 May 2012)
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