Book Review – Bring Up the Bodies


Bring Up the Bodies
A Review by Wendy Jaensh

I loved Hilary Mantel’s novel Wolf Hall, so it was with great excitement, that I opened her new novel, Bring Up the Bodies.  By the second page I was completely confused since it wasn’t clear to me who “I” referred to:  Cromwell or Henry the VIII.  However, the writing was so beautiful that I kept reading and – within two chapters – my confusion was replaced with pleasure.

Bring Up the Bodies details the downfall of Henry VIII’s second wife, Anne Boleyn, who was eventually convicted and beheaded under the direction of the King’s chief minister and confidant, Thomas Cromwell.  Writing from the perspective of Cromwell, Mantel does a wonderful job of using the Cromwell’s thoughts to build his character.

Much that is written about Cromwell argues that he was ruthless and self-involved, but this novel illustrates the author’s view of Cromwell’s internal dialogue. He still seems to be cold, but there is some thoughtfulness in his character, especially toward his son and his friend, Sir Thomas Wyatt, who was implicated in the plot of Anne’s supposedly treacherous sexual behavior.

Though I knew the queen’s accused lovers would eventually be put to death, the author does such a great job of sharing the emotional dialogue between Cromwell and the condemned men that I actually felt sympathy for the accused and found myself wishing they would be found innocent.

Hillary Mantel does an excellent job of bringing the sadness and horror of the 16th Century into the present. For a little while, I felt the terror they must have felt over 500 years ago because of the mastery of the author. What a great piece of historical fiction.

This book is available at The Rochester Public Library in traditional format, as well as on Audio CD and downloadable audio version.

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