Audie Award Nominee, Literary Fiction, 2013
The sequel to Hilary Mantel's 2009 Man Booker Prize winner and New York Times best seller, 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?
©2012 Henry Holt and Company (P)2012 Macmillan Audio
A part-time buffoon and ersatz scholar specializing in BS, pedantry, schmaltz and cultural coprophagia.
100 pages in and it is hard to miss that this isn't just a nominal sequel to Wolf Hall, but rather the first book's logical annex. There is no drop-off in complexity. No laxity of language. Still Mantel manages to shift form, change structure and reinvent her style. She even manages to give the character of Thomas Cromwell more depth and complexity, a feat which seemed near impossible after finishing Wolf Hall.
Anyway, Mantel is one of the finest writers of English prose living. Each sentence is crafted like a unique piece in an Italian inlaid music box. She has a purpose for each comma and can make words seem to dance, fall and recover right off the page. She pulls the history out of the history and has written Tower interrogations so deft and chilling, one is left afraid of both language and the law. As readers, we watch Cromwell destroy men, overthrow queens, and change history with words, paper and a sharp understanding of men's motives. We aren't afraid because Cromwell is a monster, but because he is so heroically human.
If you do not find intrigue breathtaking, don't read this well written and well researched book. Hilary Mantel is my new favorite author, and what a remarkable writer and teller -of-tales she is! Her writing is dense, insightful, and rich in nuance. She takes the story of Anne Boleyn and makes it come to life (and death), as witnessed through the actions of Thomas Cromwell, one of King Henry VIII's chief counselors. It appears no accusations can be too bold, and no recriminations too slanderous if you are king and want to be rid of a wife you just spent ten years courting into marriage. The dicotomy of a king's whim and a queen's rights could not be more opposite, and if you can rid yourself of a few extra people along the way, why not...
Hilary Mantel makes every detail of the Tudor soap opera brand new, immediate and "can't stop listening" powerful.
Her present-tense prose works better read-aloud, at least with so fine a reader.
Cromwell as villain is nuanced by a detailed imagining of his life, his memories, his musings late at night, and even imagining a detained suspect locked, in the dark in the family Christmas closet (puts light on similar stories about More locking heretics in his basement for easier interrogation).
Okay, there will be a volume 3 for sure, or even a volume per wife, but boat loads of us will be waiting for them.
I am a voracious reader with fairly eclectic taste. I like both fiction and non-fiction, biography, history and current events. I like well written mysteries and suspense and I love 19th and 20th century classical literature as well as modern fiction. My favorite author is Philip Roth but I also love Trollope, Hardy, Jonathan Franzen, Jane Austen and Edith Wharton. My favorite biographer is Robert Caro.
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.
I think that Hilary Mantel is an wonderful author. Her story telling; her use of language; her ability to bring to life a far away period of time weaves a literary spell. I wish the book had been twice as long!!
Now I need to wait for her to write/complete the final book in this triology.
The England of Hilary Mantel is totalitarian state. Simon Vance, one of my favorite readers, reads this book beautifully but, all the same, his voice lacks the necessary malevolence that the narrator of Wolf Hall was able to achieve.
I hope that Audible will soon bring Hilary Mantel's other books into their library.
Molecular biology professor and researcher. I love history, historical fiction and future/alternate history. Mostly I listen while jogging, about 30-45 min per day.
After listening to this and the preceding Wolf Hall, I despair of ever having so much satisfaction on an audiobook and its performance. Mantel's writing is exquisite. Each sentence is carefully crafted, balanced, purposeful. The story is amusing, engrossing, horrifying, comforting, and always compelling. If feels like history but somehow one is transported into Cromwell's head and behind his eyes.
And Vance must feel the same way I do. His reading...his performance....is absolutely spot on.
I will NOT enjoy any other book, or pair of books, as much. It's all downhill from here.
I just wish we would get another volume...perhaps it will yet come. The last words in the book state that the end is the beginning.
I feel like I have had a course in Tudor history, but with a lot more of the important social and economic detail than you would ever get in a classroom.
Pure magic. Seriously, there must be a lot of scholarship....the details are so dense and believable. But the primary thing is the lyrical writing.
It was too short.
Regret that I am done with it. Play it again, Sam.
Dually addicted bookie. Read and listen to most books together. If I don't like reader of audible I dump it and move on.
I'd recommend it anyone who has enjoyed reading "Wolf Hall" or enjoyed listening to Simon Slater's rendering of Part 1. It seems about half as long.
The character of Thomas Cromwell...brilliant and badass...
The dialogue has an additional dimension...and the story requires a superior reader...which Vance is...as was Simon Slater in Wolf Hall.
Yes...a number of laughs at the wit of Mantel's channeling of Cromwell.
I don't know why Simon Slater wasn't chosen to read...since his rendering of Wolf Hall was one of the greatest performances I've heard but Vance does a very good job of it...and the Cromwell voice choices he makes echo Slater's in the earlier book. Hilary Mantel is a superb writer...a witty and brilliant vision of how things may have been in a very mean and ruthless time period. I enjoyed seeing the fall of several of Cromwell's (and Woolsley's) enemies.
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 finally realized why I don't enjoy the talented and accomplished Simon Vance as a narrator: his voice strikes me as chilly, even though I realize he might in real life be the warmest-hearted person I could ever hope to meet. But what this meant for my "Bring Up the Bodies" listen is that I was left wondering if Hilary Mantel was telling the story of a man (Cromwell) corrupted by power, who had lost some of his human qualities—or if it was just that Simon Slater (for Book One of the series) was better able to express Cromwell's tenderness and regrets. I couldn't tell if Cromwell had changed, or if I was just confused by the change in narrator. Also, while "Wolf Hall" chronicles the rise of the plucky Cromwell and equally plucky Anne Boleyn, and it's the icky Thomas More who loses his head, in "BUtB" it's the demure (and less fascinating) Jane Seymour whose star is rising, and it's hard not to feel sorry for the innocent and/or naive courtiers who end up paying the ultimate price when Cromwell starts calling in accounts. Despite the excellent writing and narration, I didn't enjoy this audiobook as much as its predecessor.
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.
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