Book Review: Bring Up the Bodies (Thomas Cromwell #2) by Hilary Mantel

Posted October 12, 2014 by @Angelized_1st in 2014 HF Challenge, Books, Entertainment, Historical Fiction Reading Challenges, Reading Challenges / 0 Comments

Book Review: Bring Up the Bodies (Thomas Cromwell #2) by Hilary MantelBring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
Series: Wolf Hall,
Published by Macmillan on May 8th 2012
Pages: 432
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
ISBN: 9781250024176
Buy on: AmazonBarnes & NobleiBooks

“The things you think are the disasters in your life are not the disasters really. Almost anything can be turned around: out of every ditch, a path, if you can only see it.”

The sequel to Hilary Mantel's 2009 Man Booker Prize winner and New York Times bestseller, Wolf Hall delves into the heart of Tudor history with the downfall of Anne Boleyn.

Though he battled for seven years to marry her, Henry is disenchanted with Anne Boleyn. She has failed to give him a son and her sharp intelligence and audacious will alienate his old friends and the noble families of England. When the discarded Katherine dies in exile from the court, Anne stands starkly exposed, the focus of gossip and malice.

At a word from Henry, Thomas Cromwell is ready to bring her down. Over three terrifying weeks, Anne is ensnared in a web of conspiracy, while the demure Jane Seymour stands waiting her turn for the poisoned wedding ring. But Anne and her powerful family will not yield without a ferocious struggle. Hilary Mantel's Bring Up the Bodies follows the dramatic trial of the queen and her suitors for adultery and treason. To defeat the Boleyns, Cromwell must ally with his natural enemies, the papist aristocracy. What price will he pay for Anne's head? Bring Up the Bodies is one of The New York Times' 10 Best Books of 2012, one of Publishers Weekly's Top 10 Best Books of 2012 and one of The Washington Post's 10 Best Books of 2012

I’ve always been enthralled by Tudor England, even as a child. Growing up in the Episcopal (Anglican) Church, Henry VIII fascinated me, because I couldn’t comprehend how a man (even a king) could break away from the Catholic Church, and form his own during a time when the Pope reigned supreme over Catholic countries. Henry VIII was a warrior, a learned man, and was a devout Catholic until his lust for Anne Boleyn drove him to something that has had lasting ramifications throughout history. So when I learned author Hilary Mantel wrote a book covering this time period from none other than Thomas Cromwell’s perspective, I knew I had to read it.

Mantel’s first book in the Thomas Cromwell series, Wold Hall, wasn’t the page turner I thought it would be. Her over use of pronouns made it hard for me to distinguish the speaker in many cases, forcing me to read, and read pages again, so I could grasp what was happening. This made reading the book laborious, and by the time I realized the story was first person from Cromwell’s perspective, I had developed such a distaste for the book that it still took be forever to finish it. Maybe that’s why I’ve had her sequel, Bring Up the Bodies on my iPad for an entire year. However, my hesitance for reading it were unfounded.


Bring Up the Bodies was an enjoyable read from beginning to end. Mantel moved away from the excessive use of the pronoun ‘he’ in her narration, making it easier to distinguish who was speaking. Even though I knew the outcome of Henry’s marriage to Anne, Mantel’s writing somehow managed to make the story suspenseful. Thomas Cromwell is an interesting lead character. Even more interesting than I ever gave him credit for, and in many ways seemed like a man born before his time. Even though Cromwell’s and Anne’s relationship was on the outs, I don’t feel as if Anne was vilified in Cromwell’s eyes. In fact, the book managed to make it seem that Henry was the one in the wrong, and that Anne, though possessing many faults, was a victim of her own hubris. If Anne was a grasping harlot that couldn’t live up to her promise, than Jane was a beautiful, dim-witted virgin who knew her place.

“…there are liasons which would put yours in the shade…”

Jane Seymour is often written as a beautiful woman who Henry grew to love for her kindness. In Bring Up the Bodies, Jane is a beautiful, but dim-witted girl who is so naive that she doesn’t seem to realize why the king is showering her with attention. By the end of the novel, though, Cromwell begins to see that this is all a ruse. Since Anne is too smart for her own good, vocal, and domineering, Jane has decided to be the complete opposite in order to ensnare Henry. Henry believes he’s gotten rid of one manipulative woman for a saint, but may have walked into the same trap. I can’t wait to see how Mantel treats Henry’s relationship with Jane in the third and final book of the series. Will Jane turn out to be the saint everyone paints her as, or will Mantel write her as more politically minded? Unfortunately, I’ll have to want until 2015 to find out the answer to that question.

Often times when the story of Henry VII and Anne Boleyn’s relationship is covered, one of them is made out to be a villain, but Mantel treated this historical titans as people like any other.  Even though this novel is deemed to be Historical Fiction, Mantel’s incredible knowledge on the subject made the novel read like a historical treatise grounded in fact. I was so invested in this novel, that I found it to be difficult to put down, and it left me wanting more. If you are a fan of Tudor England like I am, than definitely give this series a try. Who knows? Maybe you’ll have a different experience with Wolf Hall than I did. If not, then pushing through would definitely be worth it just to get to the second novel. By the way, you honestly don’t have to read Wolf Hall in order to enjoy Bring Up the Bodies. 

Rating Report
Overall: 4.3

About Hilary Mantel

Hilary Mantel is the bestselling author of many novels including Wolf Hall, which won the Man Booker Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction. Bring Up the Bodies, Book Two of the Thomas Cromwell Trilogy, was also awarded the Man Booker Prize and the Costa Book Award. She is also the author of A Change of Climate, A Place of Greater Safety, Eight Months on Ghazzah Street, An Experiment in Love, The Giant, O’Brien, Fludd, Beyond Black, Every Day Is Mother’s Day, and Vacant Possession. She has also written a memoir, Giving Up the Ghost. Mantel was the winner of the Hawthornden Prize, and her reviews and essays have appeared in The New York Times,The New York Review of Books, and the London Review of Books. She lives in England with her husband.


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