Review by Caroline Goldsmith
The sequel to the 2009 Man Booker winner Wolf Hall was bound to meet with intense anticipation and Mantel’s new offering, ‘Bring Up the Bodies’, does not disappoint. Taking up the story of the enigmatic Thomas Cromwell, this book covers the years of Anne Boleyn’s time as Queen of England and the story of her downfall. Cromwell is one of the most mysterious and alluring figures of Tudor history: a common man, risen up through the ranks of society to become the right hand of the King himself, he survived the death of his mentor Cardinal Wolsey, turned England and the church upside down and was one of the most influential and powerful men of his time.
Mantel’s narrative is filtered through the prism of Cromwell’s mind and ‘Bring Up the Bodies’ gives us more glimpses into the relatively unknown early past of this man through vivid flashbacks. The other major character of this novel is Anne, the woman for whom Henry defied the church to have as his wife, a figure at once seductively dangerous and perilously unsteady in her defiance. The prose is breathtaking, and Tudor England has never been painted in such vivid colours. Despite knowing the eventual outcome of the story the reader cannot help but be swept up in the scandal and the politics of one of the most enthralling periods of English history.
Mantel’s subtle turn of phrase, her keen eye for convincing dialogue and her clear historical expertise make this novel one of the best of 2012 and Mantel one of the most outstanding writers of a generation. ‘Bring Up the Bodies’ is quite simply a breathtaking piece of writing. The impatient wait for the final installment has already begun.