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Bring up the Bodies - Book of the Month

by Hilary Mantel

What can I say? Hilary Mantel has done it again. She has made a familiar, historical episode into a literary page-turner without losing any of the political complexity of the story.

Thomas Cromwell, enigmatic henchman for Henry VIII, now has a voice and it is such a subtle, often surprising, one, that Mantel seems to have single-handedly reinvented him and rewritten history for a generation. BRING UP THE BODIES begins in September 1535 and covers the year in which, disenchanted and out of love with his queen, Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII manages to rid himself of her and install his new favourite, Jane Seymour, as his third wife. And of course, it is his Secretary and Master of the Rolls, Thomas Cromwell, who has ruthlessly orchestrated the whole terrifying episode, scattering heads along the way. Yet Mantel's portrait is in many ways very sympathetic, drawing us into Cromwell's domestic life and showing his loyalty not just to the king but to his family, friends and retainers. It seems that the author is a little bit in love with her character and the book is all the more powerful for it.

If you haven't read WOLF HALL yet, get yourself a copy and follow it up with this one. They are both stunning novels and were obvious shoo-ins for the Man Booker both years. The third and final part of the trilogy, THE MIRROR AND THE LIGHT, is set to be published in 2015 and I for one can't wait.

Read our interview with Hilary Mantel.

Published by 4th Estate, 432pp.

Clare Chandler

Hear the Bookshop Band's song based on BRING UP THE BODIES with Hilary Mantel.


Sheila Davies
Some of my book group found Wolf Hall heavy going and didn't want to read Bring Up the Bodies but I persuaded them and now they can't wait for the next one. I agree with everything you say in the review, esp. about Hilary Mantel falling in love with Cromwell!

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