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4.3 out of 5 stars
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4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 6 December 2015
I thought it was a brilliant idea of Hilary Mantel to write a passage of Tudor history through the eyes of Thomas Cromwell. Most Tudor writers seem to keep Thomas Cromwell in the background as an eminence grise – as a sinister character who ingratiates himself with King Henry VIII whilst bullying and intriguing his way to power and wealth. Hilary Mantel portrays him as a much more subtle character. She gives us a self-made man who rose from humble origins (as did Cardinal Wolsey) driven by personal ambition. Cromwell was ruthless in pursuit of the king’s favour. But he was also a cultured man who spoke many languages, who was sympathetic towards the newly formed Anglican faith and who saved a large number of Lutheran ‘heretics’ from being tortured and burnt at the stake. But he was at the same time capable of cynical cruelty and dishonesty. Hilary Mantel shows how he stage managed the trial and execution of Anne Boleyn on evidence that he, as a trained lawyer, must have despised. As an aside, in the same vein, Hilary Mantel portrays Thomas More – often regarded as a saint – as a fanatical persecutor of heretics, torturing them in his own house with his own hand before sending them to the stake.

These two books combine drama and history with a rare intelligence and absence of sentimentality. Hilary Mantel’s literary style is not to everyone’s liking – she writes in the present tense, mainly, and doesn’t always make it clear who is speaking and thinking. In that way, she shows respect for the reader’s intelligence although, judging from some reviews, she manages to irritate a substantial minority who like their writing more straightforward. Another criticism might be that she assumes her readers have at least a background knowledge of Tudor history and politics. I would have found these two books very difficult to follow and enjoy if I weren’t familiar with the basic history. One of the things I like about her style is that she focuses on people with an emphasis on dialogue and conflict. There are no lengthy descriptions of buildings or rooms. One has to use one’s imagination.
The two book Kindle version, at the time I bought it, was only marginally cheaper than buying the two Kindle versions separately. I’d advise people to check prices before deciding whether to buy this version or two independently. Also these two books are part of a trilogy, so no doubt the full trilogy will be available on Kindle in the foreseeable future.

The BBC has produced Wolf Hall as a televised drama. This is available on DVD, and includes Bring Up The Bodies. I thought it was excellent. Some prospective readers might find it helpful to see the DVD before reading the two books.
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on 10 February 2013
The books themselves are among my all time favourites but the Kindle version, on a brand new Paperwhite keeps giving an error saying that it must be re-downloaded from the cloud - which I did - same problem. I'd given the Kindle to my Mum and these random, recurrent errors have really put her off the device.
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on 13 August 2014
Good tale
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on 8 February 2014
Well written. A credible voice of the main character. A well formed study of human nature. Politics played out for the highest stakes. To the winner the spoils. The loser loses their head
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on 22 March 2015
brilliant
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on 26 April 2013
I find it almost impossible to read Wolf Hall although I have tried several times, perhaps I will try again sometime. Have not yet tried to read Bring up the bodies.
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on 2 April 2013
Don't get me wrong - both books are fantastic BUT DON'T BUY THE KINDLE TWO BOOK EDITION. Not only is it more expensive than the two Kindle books bought separately but even more infuriatingly there is some fault in the two book edition which means that when you close your Kindle it repeatedly goes back to the start so you lose your place. To add to the annoyance you then can't page through the chapters to re-find it... really cross and want my money back.
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on 22 November 2012
Promos for these books, and a BBC interview with the author, spurred me to buy both Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies. They follow the life and intrigues of Thomas Cromwell, 'fixer' for Henry Tudor, the 8th English King Henry, notorious in Britain's history for his shifting passions and failure to produce an official male heir. The novels takes us through the triumph, fall and execution of Anne Boleyn and the elevation of Jane Seymour.

The violence, disease and barbaric cruelty of the age are vivid. It was a time when holding the 'wrong' religious views in England led to death by burning at the stake - Mantel makes her otherwise quite diplomatic descriptions of these events perfectly grisly by noting how, if the wind blew the wrong way, it took the victim even longer to die. I didn't exactly have nightmares but there are tough moments in reading!

In counterbalance: Thomas Cromwell's egalitarian household - he takes care of his people and offers opportunity where he can. There are glimpses of his early career on the continent that suggest reasons for his generosity. Assorted royal hangers-on and their dependents and servants are portrayed with engaging foibles, viciousness, humour and fears.

You can tell that vast amounts of research - and empathy - have been poured into these books. It's desperately difficult for the historical writer to avoid 'look what I know' info dumps... Mantel certainly depicts a richly detailed, complex world.

...I wouldn't have been quite so jarred by the 'masterly technique' (really you shouldn't have to notice it...) were it not for some tricks of style that alienated me.

- I don't enjoy narratives that flick between present events and flashback. That's just my taste. You might judge that Thomas' situation prompts his memory. That the drip feed of background about Thomas' earlier career adds to the interest and tension of where we see him. I suppose that was the intention. To me, these sections are muddling and get in the way of the story.

- I absolutely loathe the use of 'he' and 'him' when Cromwell's name or some other title should be re-stated. So many sentences - with paragraph layout contributing to the confusion - use 'he' when it's simply not clear if that means Cromwell or another character. Sometimes the author is obliged to write 'he, Cromwell...' which is just plain bad. Meant presumably as a distinctive twist of style, it fails. Clunky!

And those two things really spoiled my enjoyment of these otherwise good books. I can only speculate that Mantel wanted a way to distinguish her work from other good historical novels. Instead, I can't honestly say I think Wolf Hall or Bring Up The Bodies are better than other serious contenders in the genre, and I do think they're badly weakened by gimmicks.

Will I buy the much vaunted third book? Possibly. But I'll have to be in the right mood to tackle it.
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on 15 February 2015
I am sure somewhere deep within this book there is an excellent story. However the sentence structure and the dialogue is infuriating to understand. It is difficult to figure out who is speaking or thinking. I have returned this for a refund
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on 27 July 2013
i started the series expecting a lot from it . after reading the first chapter , my eyes were just stuck to the book like the binding of the pages. the outcome of the book was a million times of what i expected it to be. im so glad that i started reading the series after the sequel had been released . If bring up the bodies had not been released when i finished wolf hall , i wold have been in the state of impecible misery. although i do wait for the next book , but i even dread it . finger's crossed .
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