Book Review: 2012 Shortlisted: Hilary Mantel's Bring Up The Bodies (Review #2)

Rating: 4
Bring Up The Bodies
A Novel by Hilary Mantel
2012 / 407 Pages

Bring Up The Bodies is yet another book that is a part of our BookerMarks collaborative project and is shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. We all know the story of Anne “off with her head” Boleyn and this will be the 6th review– there is really not much more I can add without being repetitive so this is going to be brief.

Bodies is the sequel to the 2009 Man Booker Prize winning book Wolf Hall and is the second of a trilogy (book three is not written yet but it is already on my TBR list!!). Hilary Mantel brilliantly re-tells the story of The Tutors from the point of view of Thomas Cromwell, Master Secretary to King Henry VIII. The story reads as if Ms. Mantel hopped into a time machine, stood on the sidelines as history unfolded and took notes. You can totally see Henry as he laments like a dreamy teenager at the sight of Jane Seymour, Mark Smeaton (the first to be accused of sleeping with Anne) as he is attacked by “Christmas” in the tower as they await his confession and tiny Anne Boleyn as she kneels before her imported French executioner waiting to be beheaded. The detail is amazing– a great way to learn about the history of this time period– definitely not a stuffy history book.

In most history books Cromwell is portrayed as a villain, the man behind putting “the concubine” on the throne and the power-hungry mastermind behind English Reformation. Mantel manages to make you sympathize and like this character. She gives him a sympathetic human persona that you can totally relate to– how could Cromwell do anything BUT what the king wanted him to do? What Henry wants, Henry gets and in Bodies Henry is ready to dump Anne and Cromwell needs to make it happen– at all costs.  I now NEED to read Wolf Hall to find out how Cromwell rose from a lowly son of a blacksmith and cloth merchant with no name or title to King Henry’s right hand man.

Elizabeth and I both opted to listen to the audiobook which was BRILLIANTLY narrated by Simon Vance. She reviewed it long before it was even long-listed (read her EXCELLENT review here) and like her I am giving it 4 stars. It would be very cool for this one to take home the Man Booker Prize (and for Hilary Mantel to be the first to win more than one) but I, like my fellow BookerMarkers, just can’t see it happening. As good as Bring Up The Bodies was it is just such a different book from all of the rest– in both style and subject matter– and it does not seem to fit in with this year’s judges’ agenda. Who knows? Maybe we will be surprised! We shall see on Tuesday!! So exciting!

This review was posted simultaneously by Jackie on BookerMarks.