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The second book from Hilary Mantel on King Henry VIII’s chief minister Thomas Cromwell, Bring Up The Bodies focuses on the period after the king has married Anne Boleyn to the downfall of the Boleyn family.

King Henry VIII is one of the most fascinating people in history – I have read so much on the Tudors and watched The Tudors religiously. So I was very excited to read this book, especially because Mantel’s first novel, Wolf Hall was one of the best books I’ve ever read. But what makes this trilogy stand out is that it is from the perspective of Thomas Cromwell, whom history doesn’t always cast in a good light.

By 1535, Cromwell has become a very powerful man in England, which is more impressive when you considered he is the son of a poor blacksmith. Katherine, Henry’s first wife and ex-Queen, has just died and Henry becomes more and more anxious for a son. Unfortunately, Queen Anne has failed to produce an heir to secure the Tudor line.

The Queen’s situation because more precarious when the king meets Jane Seymour, the woman would later become his third wife, at Wolf Hall and the king becomes focused on ridding England of Anne Boleyn.

Cromwell’s fortunes have risen with those of Anne Boleyn, but his loyalty to the king outweighs his loyalty to the Boleyns. Cromwell walks a fine line between what truth will satisfy Henry to strengthening and securing his own career. Through sneaking deals and diplomacy (and a bit of torture), Cromwell is able to extract confessions from Anne’s “lovers.” Because of her “infidelity” (and alleged incest with her brother), she is executed.

Of course Cromwell comes out of the situation much more powerful with the king getting what he wants. Unfortunately, if you know your history, you’ll know that the next and final book will not be a happy ending for Cromwell.

Cromwell is a complex character that you can’t help but like and sympathize with. He is power-hungry, but works within the limits of his king. He is still grieving for his dead wife and daughter, at the same time, instilling his son with ambition and diplomatic skill. Though as much as the reader may like him, he does some pretty unforgivable and gruesome things – like forcing false confessions through torture.

If you are interested in historical fiction or in King Henry VIII, definitely pick up this read. It is very accurate for a book set in the 16th Century and Mantel is one of the finest writers out there. Her dedication to historical accuracy is astonishing (even if she is writing fiction). That’s probably why she won the Man Booker Prize for her first book, Wolf Hall.

Rating:

{  } Pretty bad
{  } Tolerable
{  } All right
{  } Exciting
{x} Enthralling

Book 38 out of 60