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A Genius and a Monster,
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This review is from: Bring Up the Bodies (Hardcover)Mantel has the knack of pulling the reader into the novel, into the scene, by judicious use of `we' as if we, the reader, were there with Cromwell or with an omniscient narrator (the two seem interchangeable). We know so much, of course, that Cromwell doesn't -- that Jane Seymour will be dead within two years, bearing the king's only legitimate son, and that both her brothers will rise high, only to end their days on the block -- but it`s as if we didn`t know these things, as if we were contemporary onlookers.
I enjoyed the depiction of Jane Seymour as borderline autistic, such as when Cromwell, contemplating her a bride for himself, says, `I could be your father', and she takes this idea literally. A little later, Cromwell is talking to Lady Rochford, wife of George Boleyn, and, when he takes a sarcastic remark of hers at face value, she asks, `Have you been talking to Jane Seymour?'
Cromwell himself has enjoyed a glorious rehabilitation at the hands of Hilary Mantel, who shows him as a kindly man, one who thinks constantly about others, be they his own family, Henry's family or the dozens of waifs and strays he has accumulated over the years. The murderer of history? A practical man who reluctantly took the most drastic action when circumstances require it. The reader smiles to see the preening Boleyn faction cut down to size, with Anne`s father and uncle abandoning her at the earliest opportunity if it means they can keep all that they have accumulated for themselves.
As we watch `Crumb' tie the men who are accused with Anne Boleyn in knots with his eloquence, torture them with his words, he is at once a genius and a monster, but Mantel acquits him of charges of torture.
Henry himself, the fat old psycho, is a muted character, hiding in the wings or behind a curtain as Cromwell moves the pieces in this giant game of chess which must end with the taking not of the king but of the queen.