This is the text of my review of Bring Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel, posted today on Goodreads.
With this book, Mantel has added new colors to her brilliant portrait of Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII’s mastermind counsellor. More narrow in scope than its predecessor, Wolf Hall
, Bring Up The Bodies
focuses on the downfall of Anne Boleyn and her supporters and offers a possible explanation for Cromwell’s active role — perhaps one might call it zeal — in the process. It is an explanation that is certainly plausible and consistent with the character of the man we have come to know through Mantel’s gifted narration; a man who will serve his king above all else, but is not averse to making things come out as he sees fit at the same time. Cromwell’s awareness of his own danger in Henry’s court is both prescient (because we, from our perspective in history, know what is going to happen to him) and realistic (because he knows what is likely to happen to men like him), and the tension between these two emotional realities is part of the joy of experiencing these novels.
The only criticism I have of this book is that it reads a little more like “This is what he did” as opposed to Wolf Hall which was more “This is who he is” and as a result, I did not ever find myself moved to tears as I was with Wolf Hall. However, this is a tiny quibble. I still devoured it with relish and loved every minute spent in the company of this clever, wise, worldly man. And Mantel suggests something at the very end that, as with Wolf Hall, makes me hope with every fiber of my being that she will continue to explore his life with a third novel in this series.