This is a sequel that delivers on the promise of the first in the series, is even richer in the depth of its characterizations, and leaves the reader hoping for more. Though ostensibly a story of Henry VIII and the reverberations throughout his reign and all subsequent history of his cataclysmic second marriage, the book brings to the forefront the fascinating architect of many of Henry's legacies, both good and bad, the brilliant Thomas Cromwell. Though fictional, the portrait of Cromwell is detailed and highly plausible, and affords the listener a new viewpoint from which to view and judge the action of an otherwise too oft told tale.
Simon Vance never disappoints. In this narration his finest achievement is to maintain throughout the listener's intimacy with Cromwell's inner thoughts, yet at all times preserving the clarity of the narrative. The novel deserves the accolades it has received, and Vance's partnership with the author and superb translation of her intent has resulted in a literary listening experience of the first rank.
The story moved along rapidly
Mantel tells a story relatively well known - the marriages of Henry the VIII - but through the eyes of a secondary (although important) character - Thomas Cromwell.
The man behind the throne?
Among my very best audio experiences. Prose at it's most powerful. As with all historical fiction, we read to inhabit the characters as the events unfold. Mantel brings us inside Cromwell's consciousness and lets us see his life as he may have experienced it. Not just credible, but delicious with the woven texture of detail and dreams. She has created a world of lethal royal politics I love to visit from the safety of my pillows and comforter. I stop listening and awaken to the safety of my contemporary reality, but anticipate pressing the play button and returning to the all too believable world of terror awaiting Mantel's characters.
The King is knocked immobile on the tournament grounds and assumed dead, revealing the fragility of the entire kingdom potentially on the cusp of another civil war. We inhabit Cromwell as he watches the lords drop their courtly masks and betray their true treacherous ambitions. The kingdom is in such a delicate balance we can sympathize with him as he struggles to hold the entire country together and ultimately kill a queen.
Mark, the queen's musician, is invited to Cromwell's table and in a flash of provoked vanity brings down himself, the queen and the lords. The scene amimates how an innocent moment can turn into the deepest of inescapable nightmares made real.
Mantel masterfully brings Cromwell to life for us as she helps us answer the question:"How could an abused blacksmith's son rise above all lords to the pinnacle of power as Henry's most trusted agent?" Runaway child, soldier, merchant, banker, linguist, diplomat, theologian, legislator, facilitator, tactician, confidant, husband, kind father and lethal adversary. No other character moves through so many worlds with confidence and stealth. Aren't we all intrigued by gentleness and deadliness in the same vessel?
As I first started to listen I thought Mantel was venturing into language between prose and poetry. But as I immersed myself deeper into the story I experienced it as a more elevated prose, a form made more powerful by a masterful author.Although Cromwell is the central character, Mantel animates all the characters with distinctive dialogue, revealing details and layers of personality.Henry is drawn as a powerful king as capable of dominating on the tournament field as creating verse for his lovers. Both queens are made human as they stake out their territory and battle for control of Henry and the kingdom. But it is the dialogue of the minor characters and expertly painted detail that fleshes out the entire story as a most memorable experience.
Yes, I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys history, biography, and of course, Wolf Hall. This second book in the series is very well written and superbly performed. The period of history starting with Henry VIII and through Elizabeth I is always interesting, and this series is the first I've read which focuses on Thomas Cromwell.
I can't wait for the third book, even though I already know how it ends.
The glut of media about Henry VIII and Ann Boleyn in the past few years had almost convinced me I never, ever wanted to hear anything more about them; and then I heard Hilary Mantel interviewed on Fresh Air. First Wolf Hall and now Bring Up the Bodies. Fascinating characters. They are complex and human; multi-dimensional. I enjoyed feeling, in turn, dislike, pity, frustration, confusion and sometimes even amusement. And of course Thomas Cromwell is the most complex of them all. In summary, it's a great read/listen, and the narrator does a great job of helping bringing the story to life. You won't be disappointed.
This is a great historical novel and guides the listener through the maze of Henry VIII's life with Ann Boleyn after the birth of Elizabeth. Fascinating, particularly since the story is told by Thomas Cromwell.
Wolf Hall was terrific and this is a worthy follow-on but can also stand alone. I kept asking myself how the author could fashion such complex yet entertaining dialogue.
Never finished the book.
Never finished the book.
I read Wolf Hall and feel this book was a bad repeat.
This was just about the most riveting historical book I have read in a long time. I was absolutely rapt and listened as I walked my exercise walk and I never walked so far in my life!
Mr. Vance is absolutely the best narrator I have heard. His ability to go from character to character without over-doing the change in tone was amazing!
No doubt, it was ThomsCromwell - what a guy!!!!
I hope Hilarty Mantel has more wonders up her literary sleeve!
Good "read". Sometimes tedious, but the story moves along despite knowing how it's going to end.
Good background and fun read for Henry 8 fans.
Recommned putting the book on fast narration speed if you have that option. Normal speed is much too slow.
Wolf Hall, the first book in this "series" was superb, earned its Booker Prize. The narration, by the hitherto unknown Simon Slater, was miraculous, one of the greatest performances of an audiobook I've heard since Jeremy Iron's performance of Lolita. This book was more one-dimensional, we hear much less about motivation, and the downfall of Anne Boleyn gets surprisingly little attention given the buildup to it, and Cromwell's utter dependence upon her for his own success. The reading, by the ubiquitous Simon Vance, is his usual workmanlike performance, but nothing at all approaching Simon Slater's tour-de-force. It is really too bad they couldn't/wouldn't get him to do this volume as well.