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411 of 439 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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76 of 87 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 23 months ago by Amazon Customer


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411 of 439 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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59 of 65 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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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Illumination of a famous tale, 2 April 2013
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This review is from: Bring Up the Bodies (Hardcover)
Having read `Wolf Hall', I was chomping at the bit to read `Bring up the Bodies'. This book is large, heavy; it appears a challenging read from the outset, yet I was hooked. I work an hour away and I carried this book with me on the train everyday if only to capture a quiet moment to indulge myself in Thomas Cromwell's world. When I completed it, I read it again.

Mantel is an incredible writer; her prose brings the court of Henry to life in a manner other writers can only dream of. The characterisation of Cromwell is compelling. Thomas is often portrayed in other volumes as a devious, scheming bully, instrumental the fall of Anne Boleyn, betraying his former mistress when the tide turned against her. Mantel takes the facts of 1536 and puts forward an alternative; Cromwell's motives are understood and I even found I sympathised with his plight, a balancing act of humanism against the impenetrable will of a disillusioned king.

The characters of Anne and Henry are fascinating. For one moment, Cromwell can see Anne's attraction and the next he cannot; the moment has past and therein lays his power against her, she cannot charm him as she does others. Anne acknowledges this and it grates on her; her vanity is wounded and this is her eventual undoing. Henry is the big love in Cromwell's life as the king was to Wolsey previously; yet the king's character is cleverly constructed to imply a deeply flawed individual, spoilt and sulky, yet somehow charismatic. He is neither deserving of devotion nor despicable as a tyrant; his character portrays what we dislike most in present-day politicians etc. - an inability to engage with life in a real world to which they have never been party. Somehow one feels pity for Henry, his privileged upbringing has left him utterly isolated, yet he is surrounded by false friends. Cromwell is his only true ally yet Henry is often too short-sighted to appreciate his worth.

`Bring up the Bodies' is an interesting, stimulating read; the story of Anne's fall is tragic and thought provoking. The text is exceptional; the description rich and captivating, not a cliché in sight. Mantel even makes policy readable! There is moments of extreme emotion, despair, and yet humour in the oddest places; much as in reality.

I cannot wait for the next book to be released; HM please hurry!!
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76 of 87 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Dense, but not deep, 6 Jun. 2013
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This review is from: Bring Up the Bodies (Thomas Cromwell Trilogy Book 2) (Kindle Edition)
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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150 of 173 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful prose but not the equal of Wolf Hall, 11 Jun. 2012
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The order goes to the tower 'Bring up the bodies'. Deliver, that is, the accused men', 1 April 2014
By 
sally tarbox (aylesbury bucks uk) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Bring Up the Bodies (Paperback)
Superb work, which I think was even better than 'Wolf Hall', perhaps because I'm now used to Ms Mantel's writing style and also feel I know Thomas Cromwell - a character who's usually in the background of Tudor histories where we focus on Henry VIII and his entourage.
This work covers Henry's disenchantment with Anne, as he falls for Jane Seymour, 'like a flower, head drooping, modest as a drift of green-white hellebore' . Meanwhile it is left to Cromwell to arrange the legal case for Anne's adultery and convenient execution:
'the process clear, logical and designed to create corpses by due process of law.'
The stream of consciousness style of writing puts the reader inside Cromwell's head - recollections from years ago float alongside current events and make him a character you understand. Can't wait for the final volume; although I feel I know him so well I can't bear for him to meet his end...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel, 21 Nov. 2012
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This review is from: Bring Up the Bodies (Hardcover)
Have just finished reading this book, being the sequel to the Wolf Hall for which the author won Man Booker Prize in 2009. I am pleased that she won this year's Man Booker Prize for the sequel. It is very well written, she is the master of English language.

Anne Boleyn is now the queen but she fails to deliver what she promised, a son to the king, Henry VIII. Thomas Cromwell now chief minister to the King observes the downfall of Anne Boleyn and Henry's lust for a young Jane Seymour. There is no place for Anne and she has to be removed, rather like a chess piece on a chess board. Thomas Cromwell now arranges for her removal and her end comes in 1536.

Hilary Mantel's portrayal of the Tudor era is vivid, the people come alive, and her style of writing is gripping and in my view this is one of the finest books I have read and would recommend it to anyone interested in historical fiction.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I'm going to revisit her other books as these are amongst the best books I've read of the past two or three ..., 31 Dec. 2014
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This review is from: Bring Up the Bodies (Thomas Cromwell Trilogy Book 2) (Kindle Edition)
Many years ago I read "Fludd" which I found relentlessly dreary, and it quite put me off Hilary Mantel for years. After her novels Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies, however, I'm going to revisit her other books as these are amongst the best books I've read of the past two or three years - and I read an enormous quantity of books. She deals her history straight and well researched and builds believable character around a complex and interesting man living in very dangerous times. A must-read for anyone interested in tudor history - brings the period and the man alive.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Bring history to life, 3 April 2014
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This review is from: Bring Up the Bodies (Paperback)
A Man Booker Prize winner and sequel to the Man Booker Prize winner 'Wolf Hall' continues the story of Thomas Cromwell through the turbulent final weeks of Anne Boleyn's life (I'm not apologising for that spoiler, you should know that by now). In 'Wolf Hall', Thomas Cromwell was responsible for (well, he was the lawyer who made it happen) England's break with the Catholic church in order for Henry VIII to become head of the Church of England and annul his marriage with Katherine of Aragon (still with me?). Henry did this so he could marry Anne Boleyn. In this novel, Henry falls out of love with Anne after she fails to give him a male heir, so Thomas 'finds' men to testify that they had affairs with Anne (no one knows if she actually did have any affairs) so she could be tried for treason and beheaded, then he would be free to marry again. Simples!

The story is not narrated by Cromwell, but continues the 'fly-on-the-wall' narration of 'Wolf Hall'. I wonder why Mantel didn't make Cromwell the narrator? Maybe there were events which she couldn't have covered as he wasn't there, but much of the story is told by people reporting to him. I'm undecided whether this change would have added much to the novel.

I love this period in history, I read anything I can get my hands on about the Tudors, I find them fascinating. I enjoyed the insights into the Tudor court, the descriptions were lavish and the characters larger than life. I really appreciate the amount of research which must go into a novel like this. Mantel admits in a postscript that Cromwell's life is not hugely documented so a lot of the plot was embellished with accounts from other people's life. Cromwell really came to life in this book, his character was really well explained and I felt as if I knew him. Looking just at the events, you would be forgiven for thinking that Cromwell was a selfish, unfeeling servant of Henry's, he caused the death of at least 5 people (Anne and her 4 lovers), but this novel places him in a better light. He thought he was just annulling a marriage at the start of the investigation, removing Anne to a convent very much like Katherine (although she retired to semi-house arrest). As he found more and more evidence, it's clear to see that he'd started a roller-coaster which took on it's own life, culminating the only way it could. I ended up feeling quite sorry for him.

Although this is a long book (432 pages) and it does take some concentration to follow the story (which at times goes off on a train of thought which confused me), I think it's worth it. I highly recommend this book and it's predecessor 'Wolf Hall' and can't wait to read the final novel in this trilogy 'The Mirror and the Light' next year.
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5.0 out of 5 stars 'The King's good Servant but God's first' - but not quite!, 17 July 2013
This review is from: Bring Up the Bodies (Paperback)
I enjoyed 'Wolf Hall' by Hilary Mantell which formed the first part of her study of Thomas Cromwell. However, I had no great urge to re-read the book for a couple of reasons. I should state here that I've published a historical novel covering the period 1526-47 and done academic research into that period. So what didn't I like about that book? The first part of Thomas Cromwell's life remains a mystery to historians. In covering that period I felt Hilary Mantell made Cromwell far too 'chummy' and more at home in the 20th century than the 16th. I also disliked his clear ambitions towards Jane Seymour which both lacked historical basis (as far as I know!) and a sense of reality. I expected her to complete the tale of Cromwell in Part 2. She didn't and I'm delighted.
'Bring Up The Bodies' I think is a better book. The author has more detail to work with and makes it her own. Of course, she adds and elaborates (as any historical novelist must do) but she does that with skill and approach which bring 'the facts' more to life ((as any historical novel SHOULD do). For example, take Henry's tournament accident in 1536 - which, to many, explains much of the 'nastiness' of the period 1536-47 - which she precedes with details of jousting (pp. 195-200) and then elaborates with a mixture of fact and fantasy. The upshot is the reader gets a much sharper image of the potential death of the King and its consequences than they'd receive from any factual account, where it would probably be assigned to a mere paragraph. Another instance, from pure imagination although it must have taken place, is the schooling of Jane by the Seymour brothers (esp. PP. 363-70 which includes how to arrange EARLY Tudor hair!). Finally, in the account of the execution of Anne Boleyn (PP. 469-73) there is a clinical and yet moving picture of an event which has fascinate readers and audiences throughout nearly five centuries.
Of course, all novelists elaborate on thoughts, feelings and fears. This period is one full of danger and ambition, loyalty and treachery. Hilary Mantell knows how to exploit this. Here's how she adds to the examination of Mark Smeaton by Cromwell about his relations with Anne Boleyn:
'It may even now, be necessary to impress on the boy's imagination the stages on the route ahead: the walk from the room of confinement to the place of suffering, the wait, as the rope is uncoiled or the guiltless iron is set to heat. In that space, every thought that occupies the mind is taken out and replaced by blind terror. Your body is emptied and filled up with dread. The feet stumble, the breath labours....." (P. 331)
Such is Cromwell the remorseless in action - also see the interview with the hapless Norris (PP. 385-93). Cromwell the ruthless has already been illustrated by how he worms out all sorts of secrets from discontented ladies-in-waiting. However, Hilary Martell produces a kaleidoscope of the facets that made up Thomas Cromwell as he goes about trying to evidence for the King. Consequently the reader witnesses: Cromwell - the legalist is shown in his interview with that yahoo, William Brereton (PP. 393-6). Cromwell - the vengeful who when facing George Boleyn (396-400) provokes him until he says, "You may take your thumbprints off my soul"; Cromwell - the compassionate (perhaps?) in his treatment of Francis Weston (PP. 401-6); Cromwell - the confounded (PP. 407-10) when out-played by the innocent / guilty Anne Boleyn; Cromwell - the solicitous trying to protect Thomas Wyatt (PP 417-22); and Cromwell - the failure unable to make Thomas Percy forswear his oath (PP. 424-27).
The King has become a fearsome force, pushing as intelligence and will take him, expecting all his subjects to follow whatever paths he marks out. Hilary Mantell accepts her protagonist follows the main stream - 'I mean the King to be gratified in every respect. He is now a miserable cuckold, but he will forget it when he is a bridegroom again...' (P. 388) and 'He needs guilty men. So he has found men who are guilty. Though perhaps not guilty as charged.' (P. 392). A very dangerous view to take as he was to find in June 1540. To Cromwell the King 'is an anointed sovereign, and so very close to God.' (P. 400). Consequently, the title of this review quotes the words of St. Thomas More on the scaffold but with an additional comment applying to Cromwell. After Cromwell's fall, the King's will rather than intelligence are the touchstones for royal policy and even Henry was to complain that the likes of Norfolk were no match to the service of his late Minister.
One personal pleasure is that as Hilary Mantell has become so famous and appears on TV I can 'HEAR' passages of the book read to me by her voice; she has a beautiful voice and delivery. Another personal plus is to find her judgements of characters matches my own. We both like and admire Cromwell although I prefer Wolsey - the reason is that Wolsey GUIDED an unsure monarch but Cromwell SERVED a self-confident king. She sees the Seymour brothers as schemers and their sister as not quite as simple as often seen (see P. 367), despite loyalty making her manageable. Both Catherine of Aragon and her daughter are admired. She dislikes both Norfolk and Riche, as I do.
To me Anne Boleyn is, and will always remain, an enigma, a strange blend of calculating ambition and spiritual piety. When she entered her quarters in the Tower Anne said it was 'too good' for her. In the novel Wriothesley (aka 'Call-me-Risley', such a beautiful way to downgrade basically a time-server) thought this was an admission of guilt, Cromwell thinks it's because she's lost out to Jane Seymour (P. 360). Might I suggest it was because she'd failed secure the success of Protestantism (she'd supported both Cranmer and Tyndale)? A male heir and so another eleven years in power might have shut out Catholicism for good. I think the religious aspect has been played down by Hilary Mantell, which should make it even more interesting when she tackles the remaining four years of Cromwell's life. Both Anne Boleyn and Thomas Crowell in the pages of Foxe's 'Book of Martyrs' and its followers acquire almost hagiographic status; whereas to Roman Catholic writers they are almost the spawn of the Devil. I would suggest religious affiliation plays a greater role in their lives than Hilary Mantell allows.
Thomas Cromwell himself appears (PP, 410) in two minds over Anne's innocence. I think the author shares that reaction. Both Thomas and Anne remain enigmatic figures and perfect ground for the novelist.
In conclusion, Hilary Mantell has produced an excellent novel and easily worth 5 stars.
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