Beautifully and evocatively written, this is the story of the rise and fall of Anne Boleyn and her family. It is told through the eyes of Henry VIII's chief minister, Thomas Cromwell. King Henry appears to be a narcissistic psychopath, a problem if not caused by, certainly exacerbated by his lofty all-powerful political position.
Cromwell, on the other hand, is perfectly aware that what he is doing on the King's behalf is morally and legally wrong. He is simply doing his best to avoid being executed himself. If he takes a deadly revenge for verbal slights along the way he pretends not to enjoy it. At the beginning of this novel, Thomas Moore and Cardinal Wolsey, intimate advisers to the King, have already been publicly humiliated and executed. There is no benefit that would allow a shrewd person to get close to this monarch. He is dangerously paranoid and kills everyone he loves.
I'd particularly recommend this book to people who think capital punishment is a valid legal exercise and that public shaming serves some useful purpose. At one point Cromwell is asked by his son if he believes the queen and her "lovers" are guilty. He says, "They're guilty but not as charged." I have to wonder if, even in our own day, people are wrongfully convicted of crimes and even executed just to get them out of the way.
This is a book teeming with great characters. Nonetheless I became most interested in Thomas Cromwell the protagonist. His thinking is obtuse. His decisions as sly at Machiavelli's. His ability to see three moves ahead in this dangerous and hypocritical court lifestyle raised him from a blacksmith's abused son to The Earle of Essex.
I have and Simon Vance is one of the finest readers of audio books we have currently. His work is consistently engaging and well-researched. His pronunciation is nearly flawless.
Honestly I'd be apprehensive about getting close to anyone in this scenario. I don't think my life would be worth the price of the dinner. That said I'd probably enjoy a conversation with the Princess Elizabeth even at her young age in this story. She was the one who survived and to some extent lifted England out of the depression of these dark days. She did not survive because she had so many supporters. She survived because she knew when to hold back and when to push forward.
Beautifully written, suspenseful, loaded with both physical and mental action. Historical fiction doesn't get better than this.
It's hard to overstate just how good this novel is. Mantel breathes life into characters we have vague notions of from our history books. A rumination on power, survival, and human folly, "Bring Up the Bodies" is flat-out terrific. It works as a stand alone book, but for the complete experience, precede it by reading Wolf Hall.
I can't wait for volume three.
Hilary Mantel and Simon Vance deliver a historical account of the execution of Ann Boleyn with all the fears and powers inherent of living and working for a troubled king. Again we are viewing things through the eyes of Thomas Cromwell, the King's personal Secretary and lawyer. He cleverly entraps Thomas Moore to his doom, and works his magic to save or sacrifice others in the court. Not an easy position to be in. Challenging listening but historically accurate and interesting. But even as we know the outcomes, we continue to hope for certain characters, particularly Cromwell.
Maybe - to refresh when the 3rd book comes out.
Obviously Mantel's characters and their development are fabulous. Besides Thomas Cromwell (our hero), Jane and Henry are the stars. But Anne is wonderfully wicked as well.
I really loved Simon Slater's interpretation - it was incredibly nuanced, funny and intuitive. Simon Vance, while good, is second best in my opinion. I listened several times to Wolf Hall, just to recapture and hear more depths than I might have missed the first go around. The musical intros are dumb - sorry!
Not really - I'm familiar with the history and realize not all here is necessarily based in historic fact, but I love Mantel's ideas of "how it might have been'. Great book!
Bring back Simon Slater!!
Thomas Cromwell, a renaissance man? If you are in any way interested in this period of history (Henry Tudor, his wives and his political advisors) you MUST listen to Simon Vance bring Master Secretary Cromwell to life....along with Henry himself, Anne Bolyen, Thomas Moore and all the other major characters in this amazing, real life saga.
The way Mr. Vance was able to make me see Thomas Cromwell as a human being, not the self-serving politician he has always been presented as through history and fiction. Every moment he spoke as Cromwell I felt even more sympahty for him.
pretty much everything, even his portrayals of women
I would give anything for Master Secretary Cromwell to invite me over for a glass of wine and a chat about intrigue.
Simon Vance did a wonderful job of bringing the characters to life. Thomas Cromwell is a very fascinating character in historical works and even more so here in fiction. Henry VIII comes off as a bit distracted and befuddled. I have read many non-fiction works on the Tudor period and Mantel does a pretty good job of staying within the historical context while weaving an intersting tale.
Very enjoyable listen.
I read reviews of this and with great anticipation bought the book - couldn't wait to delve into these pages - Mantel is lauded as a wonderful writer and this period of history has always been fascinating to me. I admit, it was disappointing. Extra stars to Vance who told the story masterfully and has a wonderful voice. But Mantel's style wasn't music to my ears. I found some of the descriptions of court politics tedious and the numerous characters - apart from the key players - hard to keep separate. Especially irritating was this use of the pronoun 'he' followed by the name 'Cromwell'. What an awkward construction! Why not use simply 'Cromwell', unless the use of 'he' is clear who it refers to?
I am a great fan of historical fiction and was hoping to discover a new favourite author - but it's back to Ken Follett for me!
audio book junkie
OK this book has amazing reviews. I love period pieces and I love history but I don't know what went wrong here, in my three years of being a member of audible this is the first book I couldn't finish. I just could not get into this book. I tried three times. Starting over each time, the third time I made it 6 hours in and I was bored and just didn't care about it. Maybe it's because I didn't read the first book "Wolf Hall" I'm not sure. Maybe it was the writing, maybe it was the reading, maybe it was the story... something was a miss for me.
This was the type of experience that I had expected or hoped would be among the best audible could provide. The reading allowed me to passively become part of another world. It was a brilliant read that made me feel as though the people were all real, and that I could know their thoughts, motivations and hopes. A brilliant creation of a lost world.
Was hooked as soon as I heard his voice, with all its cunning and caution. He captured the presumed weary character of Cromwell. A pragmatic, devious, yet mindfully pious and thoughtful man, that was wise enough to know he was playing a deadly game in a jungle where all the animals were predators yet foolish enough to think that he alone would not be devoured in the end.
At the end of the book, when Cromwell becomes introspective and thinks about the effect that a death had on himself, and knowing that even though he was wiser, more intelligent and thoughtful than his adversaries, he never the less would succumb to the awful fruition of historical forces, forces which he himself would unleash. Some of it was intentioned by the protagonist but other forces unpredictable and unknowable until revealed, until the bitter end, thereby like the others Cromwell outsmarted, becoming his own executioner.
Took a lot of purchases at audible to get to the one that made all the other duds worth it.
There is no Frigate like a Book To take us Lands away Nor any Coursers like a Page Of prancing Poetry – Emily Dickinson
Generally I enjoy historical fiction, however, I didn't really like this book much. For one thing, I felt like names and details were too overwhelming. After a while, I pretty much gave up on TRYING to figure out the characters, and I just let the story wash over me and the characters either stuck with me - or not. Yes, there were interesting parts, learning occurred, and parts were even humorous, but overall I just didn't care much.
Also, I found her writing to be problematic. Here is the best description of it that I could come up with:
From Googreads review by Isis, June 2012:
"Mantel still prefers to overuse her third person pronouns rather than use her main character’s name, which in the previous book could get considerably confusing, however, towards the end of Wolf Hall she begins using “he, Cromwell…” a lot more, and it’s that form that she utilises in Bring Up the Bodies. It admittedly clears up a lot of potential confusion, but I stick by what I said in my review of Wolf Hall, that it renders the “he” altogether redundant and it’s a clumsy solution compared to the simplicity and clarity of just using a character’s name where appropriate!"