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376 of 402 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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49 of 54 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Dense, but not deep
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...
Published 17 months ago by Amazon Customer


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376 of 402 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 'But that was long ago and in another country', 15 May 2012
By 
Purpleheart (UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bring Up the Bodies, 9 Oct 2013
By 
Steve D (London, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Bring Up the Bodies (Paperback)
Considering its predecessor was called Wolf Hall (the family home of the Seymours), it is not until the start of this sequel that we are actually taken there. Picking up a couple of months after the climax of the first book, which chronicled the rise of both Anne Boleyn and Thomas Cromwell, we now come to Anne's downfall, whilst Cromwell appears like a man riding the crest of a wave, the surfboard bucking beneath his feet, one misstep threatening to tumble him into the jaws of the waiting sharks. He's made a lot of enemies, Cromwell, in his climb to become Henry's chief minister and advisor. Anne, meanwhile, three years as queen, has failed to provide a son and heir to the throne and - as rumours begin to circulate of the King's deficiencies in the bedroom being to blame, and of Anne's infidelities - suddenly Henry's eyes come to rest on young Jane Seymour (who, at this stage, I am assuming was fresh from her role in Live and Let Die, and was far too young to have considered Doctor Quinn, Medicine Woman). Well, the writing is on the wall, isn't it? And, of course, it falls to Cromwell once again to facilitate the King's desires, knowing well enough the treacherous waters into which they will take him.

I suppose, in the wrong hands, telling a story to which everyone knows the outcome could be something of a poisoned chalice, a turgid drudge to a predictable conclusion. In the right hands, though, knowing what the outcome will be can lead to heightened tension: you know what's going to happen but you are so involved that you can only look on, helpless, as the characters fulfil their roles in the tragedy. Mantel's are most definitely the right hands. Perhaps her cleverest, neatest and best trick is to relate the events in the present tense. In doing so, she got me right inside Cromwell's head, seeing this vivid, dangerous world through his eyes. Much as he seems to be riding that wave, I felt as if I was riding his thoughts, watching him cajole and manipulate and fight for every inch of ground he could gain.

I know some people struggled with Wolf Hall but, for me, Mantel's prose is immaculate. It demands concentration, for sure (a slight distraction can lead to having to re-read a paragraph or page to grab back the thrust of a thought or scene), but it carried me from conversation to memory, flitting with Cromwell's thoughts to another half-formed memory, but always brought me back to the crux of the matter, the point of the scene. It is also riddled with caustic wit and profound observation. I frequently laughed out loud as I read: Cromwell is the master of the put-down, even if he internalises it. One such moment that stuck in my mind occurred early on, when Cromwell is visited by an enemy, the Bishop of Winchester, Stephen Gardiner:

----

'In practice, Stephen, upwards, downwards -- it hardly matters. "Where the word of a king is, there is power, and who may say to him, what doest thou?"'

'Henry is not a tyrant,' Gardiner says stiffly. 'I rebut any notion that his regime is not lawfully grounded. If I were king, I would wish my authority to be legitimate wholly, to be respected universally and, if questioned, stoutly defended. Would not you?'

'If I were king . . . '

He was going to say, if I were king I'd defenestrate you. Gardiner says, 'Why are you looking out of the window?'

----

Mantel's style is not the most descriptive - you'll rarely find detailed descriptions of rooms, buildings, attire etc - and yet the time and place seems to come alive through her words. The characterisation is pin-sharp, if seen through a Cromwell-tinted lens. Everything is seen through his eyes and, whether or not he agrees with him, he will do what he has to do to meet the needs of his King. You fear for him at the same time as standing agog at the audacity of the actions he takes.

Bring Up the Bodies is a triumph from the first page to the last, in my opinion. For me to read a book that contains literally not one piece of action, and yet to come away thinking that the pacing was phenomenal, never dragging for an instant, shows to me just how good a writer she is. It is completely absorbing, immersive, exciting and scary.

It is far and away the best book I've read so far this year.
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49 of 54 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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44 of 49 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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149 of 170 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
5.0 out of 5 stars Bringing the past to life, 4 May 2013
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Maybe it's me, but this is a real page-turner - I now know the characters after reading "Wolf Hall" so
really enjoying this one. Can't wait to read the last one in the trilogy although I already know the ending!
It's made me download Hilary Mantel's autobiography - what make's this woman tick? is answered for me here..
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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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24 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't wait for the paperback!, 2 Sep 2012
By 
Ms. S. H. H. Smith "Sue Smith" (Quissac, France) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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This review is from: Bring Up the Bodies (Hardcover)
Having absolutely loved Wolf Hall, my impatience got the better of me and I ordered the hardback of Bring Up the Bodies. And it did not disappoint in any way. Mantel is at the height of her powers and the continuing story of the fascinating Thomas Cromwell enthralled me. But this is far more than a simple narration or historical novel. Underlying it is a complex analysis of humanity, humaneness, cruelty and frailty. I couldn't stop reading it, slowed down towards the end because I didn't want it to end, then started over again immediately. A rich experience.
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