Bring Up The Bodies
A Novel by Hilary Mantel
2012 / 407 Pages
Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel is the second novel in a trilogy about King Henry the VIII and Thomas Cromwell. Mantel starts Bring Up the Bodies without missing a beat after the ending of Wolf Hall. From the opening pages, we find the wonderful compassionate side of Thomas Cromwell as well as the tale tell signs of King Henry's disillusionment with Anne Boleyn and their marriage. Most of us know before we start how this book is going to end. The fact that we know how the book will end and we still read it as an exciting page turner is why this book has been nominated for the Man Booker long list.
Bring Up the Bodies differs from Wolf Hall in that Wolf Hall has set the stage for the characters and described the religious turmoil of the period relating to the divorce of Queen Katherine and the marriage to Anne Boleyn. Mantel spent a lot of time in minute detail of the cast of characters, the homes, the weather, the relationships. In Bring Up the Bodies she gets to tell the story of the fall of Anne Boleyn in all of its gossipy detail. As we know the characters from Wolf Hall and the religious issues are mute in this book, it is a much faster and enjoyable read.
Bring Up the Bodies was predictable, yet it was so very shocking as well. Many people have asked if you have to read Wolf Hall to understand Bring Up the Bodies. I guess you could, but without the detail from Wolf Hall you lose all of the wonderful tender and sometimes shocking revelations in Bodies. The most tender moments of the book are on the first and last pages being able to see straight into Cromwell's heart. Without reading Wolf Hall these moments are totally lost. The most shocking revelation of the book is Cromwell's motivation in pursuing Anne's accused lovers. Without reading Wolf Hall, one would never know how devistated Cromwell was over the incident and how ruthless he is in carrying out his charge.
So, if the judging of Bring Up the Bodies encompasses the knowledge from Wolf Hall, this book is amazing. Judged alone without the insight to the tidbits planted the Wolf Hall, does the book garner the same rating? I have read both and there is no way I could separate them - my rating is a 4.5. The only reason that it is not a 5 is that even though I love the way Mantel has described Cromwell's compassion, it has failed to be gut wrenching or heartbreaking.