Simon Vance does such a good job narrating this sequel to Wolf Hall I listened a second time just to savor it again. Very strong images and rhythmic text, dialogue enhanced by reading as the different voices and personalities are distinct and add flavor. Shorter than the first book due to a much tighter time frame, this book concerns only the fall of Anne Boleyn. Important events of Cromwell's life are revisited helping to illuminate objects and memories for readers who have not read the first volume. Fascinating view of a well known historical event as imagined by the author from the point of view of Thomas Cromwell, it is particularly of interest for those who are familiar with this period of history.
condemned by infertility
Thomas Cromwell remains my favorite character because in him we see the makings of a statesman who held his own with royalty. Indeed, Henry VIII does not understand yet just how valuable Cromwell is. Cromwell is one of the few common men of humble birth who has ever been able to ascend to the pinnacle of power without having to be born into it or win it by combat. He is an everyman, a bureaucrat and a bit of a polymath. Kind to his servants, intuitive about what motivates people and skillful at using that motivation to benefit his king and country. He behaves humbly around those who think they are his betters but his humility is just a ruse. He subtly asserts himself and no one puts Cromwell in a corner.
The scene where Henry is knocked unconscious during a jousting tourney is my favorite. Suddenly, everyone's ambitions are revealed. But Cromwell puts his state and country first by defending the body of the king and he does this because he knows how close the country still is to a civil war. This scene is particularly well written and one can only imagine what Cromwell saw in the eyes of the dukes and other high level courtiers when the chance to sieze the throne was only a breath away.
One can only imagine what the courtiers saw in Cromwell's eyes and whether this was the moment of realization that lead to his eventual downfall. It was a moment when ancient feudal rite met modernity and for a moment, the feudalists blinked.
Jane Seymour comes across as a very clever girl. Maybe it wasn't always her goal to become queen, like Anne Boleyn, but Jane was someone who took advantage of opportunity and used her naturally reserved demeanor to promote her family. She's more like a cunning fox than a wolf.
My biggest problem with this book is that it hold up well in comparison to Wolf Hall. I realize that some listeners may have had problems with Wolf Hall because it is written in a non-linear style, part historical fiction, part biography. It tended to meander a bit with parts of Cromwell's domestic and inner life juxtaposing with current events in a not altogether easy to follow manner. But these are minor quibbles for a listener. Hilary Mantel is an author of extraordinarily lovely and powerful language. I was completely swept away by Wolf Hall because I had such a clear picture of what made Cromwell tick.
But Bring Up The Bodies seems to have "benefitted" from a more rigorous editing step. Someone slashed the size of this book down to an more manageable size but left a lot of material on the cutting room floor. Virtually nothing is said of the histories of the men who went to the scaffold with Anne. Some information comes through in their interviews with Cromwell but this is quick and not well fleshed out. We still don't know why Henry cut Anne off after her last miscarriage. I thought miscarriages were more common back then so there had to be another reason, perhaps medical, why Henry didn't think Anne would ever produce a son. There's no insight from doctors where they are saying, "Ah, yes, we've seen this kind of thing before. The first child is healthy but no other children live. No one knows why but we have seen that some families are plagued with it."
And then there is the motivation of Cromwell himself. It sounds like a combination of just serving the king and the desire to wreck revenge on the courtiers who continually pushed their social superiority in his face. I am unconvinced. It could be the lack of documentation but if anything, the earlier parts of Cromwell's life were more sparsely documented while this part was historic. Where Mantel allowed her mind to wander in Cromwell's in the first book, making for a coherent and consistent picture of this complex man, she pulls back in the second leaving Cromwell's personal feelings and motivations more mysterious and inscrutable. He comes across as more Iago than a Renaissance man, leaving us to continue to puzzle over the Anne Boleyn incident and his role in it. What a shame. She needn't have hurried the second book. Some things take time and need to develop at their own rate. I hope she reverts to form with the third book.
I have read Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies in their print editions and have now listened to them. I highly recommend doing both, and don't think it would matter whether you listened or read first. Both Simon Slater (Wolf Hall narrator) and Simon Vance (Bodies) are excellent, and their readings add much to what is already sublime writing. I almost hesitate to say that Hilary Mantel writes in a poetical manner, because it might turn some people off, but she does, with a style that is so immediate and accessible that you feel as though you are part of Thomas Cromwell. The history is fascinating and leaves you wanting more. Thankfully, she is working on the third volume of the trilogy. Even though I'm very motivated to read more on this period and these people, I think I'll wait until after I've read the third volume. I want to hear it from Hilary first!
I grew up on Golden Age Radio, and while I love to read, I typically consume more books via audio thanks to a job that lets me listen while I work. As an aspiring writer, I try to read a great deal of non-fiction in addition to a variety of fictional genres. I especially love history, historical fiction, science fiction, fantasy, and old-style gothic horror.
As with the first in the series, Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel spins the Tudor story through the eyes of Thomas Cromwell and makes him realistic and relatable at the same time. This part of the story will take you through to the end of Henry VIII's marriage to Anne Boleyn. The politics and intrigue of this time are intricate to say the least, and Mantel glides through it all like a born navigator, adding that extra depth to what you read in the history books. I even learned a couple of little things that I had to look up to verify.
Simon Vance, as always, is superior. Usually it's jarring when a new narrator steps in, but I'm convinced Vance should read pretty much anything dealing with historical England... and a great many other things besides. Just as Mantel adds depth to Cromwell, so too does Vance add that little something extra that's needed to bring the writer's ideas to life.
For my part, I'm left wanting more and hope there's another volume on the horizon.
Researcher/oral historian and fitness enthusiast from Austin, TX, currently residing in San Diego. I love to read, but traditional books require a person to be sedentary while reading. Audio books make it possible for me to increase both my physical activity and reading quantity.
1. Beautiful, creative, award-worthy writing and a new perspective on a timeless historic tale.
2. Stands alone.
It is not necessary to get the first book in the series (Wolf Hall) as Bring Up the Bodies does fine as a stand-alone work, but I am very glad that listened to Wolf Hall prior to Bring Up the Bodies as knowing details and characters in the back story was immensely helpful.
3. New narrator is a big improvement.
Unlike Wolf Hall, Bring Up the Bodies does beautifully in the audio format and was very easy to follow because the narrator does such an excellent job. Though Wolf Hall is just as good if not better than Bring Up the Bodies, I gave an unfavorable review to Wolf Hall because I found it hard to follow and hard to stomach in audio format. I mentioned that the narrator might be the cause of this, but I wasn't sure. After listening to a different narrator for Bring Up the Bodies, I am100% sure that the change in narrator made all the difference in my listening experience.
Mantel is an excellent story teller with a rich language and a form entirely her own.
In Bring up the Bodies she fully delivers on the expectations I had after hearing/reading Wolf Hall.
Simon Vance reads the novel magnificently and help bring the characters discretely to life, so the story and characters and dialogue stands out and the narrator is almost unnoticed in the background.
One of the best audible reads out there.
Mantel with her wonderful dialogue and scenes touches the emotions in this story but Vances voice makes us feel the emotion each character is feeling that we could only assume in reading rather then listening. The voice and emotion that he gives each character makes the story come alive. It was perfect for me
It was great.
I doubt there's any one in this story I would be comfortable with having dinner.
I have read several historys of this period and have takien courses in English history. No doubt the many movies of the period have influenced me but Hilary Mantel's treatment of the dialogue and understanding of the characters helps explain much that was not clear but I belive is a true version of what occurred. The plots, the betrayals and the skill of Cromwell, as a master of carrying out the wishes of his king which he treats as the only measure of morality, is written in such a way for me as if the writer was there at the time.Cant wait for the next installment of this fascinating description of this period of history even though we all know the outcome.
So much to learn, and so little time to sit down and read. Thanks Audible.
After reading all the great reviews I was eager to read this book. I really like the learning that comes with books about history, and I love a good novel. In my opinion this book was neither. It was boring to read, and seemed SO tedious. I got sick of hearing Cromwell's voice, and it felt like he was in every scene.
Books about historical events have the disadvantage of the reader already knowing the ending, but the good ones are able to insert twists and intrigue throughout the story. With this book I felt Mantel just kept plodding toward the finish line like a race with just one turtle.
The five worthwhile minutes mentioned in my headline are because this is a good historical story, it's just that it could be explained by a history teacher in 5 minutes. Then you'd still have time to go home and listen to a good book.
I thought Simon Vance was very good. He brought a lot to the characters. He just didn't have a decent story to work with.
Not that I can think of.
Ann Boleyn? Inconceivable!
Mantel's 2009 Booker Prize winning effort "Wolf Hall", to which this novel is a sequel, suffered, I felt, from a lack of editing. "Bring Up the Bodies" is tauter and, for that reason, actually better.
Vance is always a first-rate narrator, and he doesn't disappoint here.
Anne's final days