I’ve been dreading reading this book ever since I failed to complete reading Wolf Hall and a part of me wasn’t sure what to do as this is the sequel to Wolf Hall which I hadn’t learnt the end of! To get over this I listened to an abridged version of Wolf Hall on audible before then downloading the full version of ‘Bring up the Bodies’. There was no doubt for me that I wanted to listen to this rather than read the book – given the struggle id had with the first book.
I’m not too proud to change my opinion on something and having now listened to both these novels I actually really enjoyed both stories, as well as learning a lot of basics about English history and Henry VIII I probably should’ve picked up at some point in high school history lessons (I do appreciate it’s still a novel!).
Whilst Wolf Hall told the story of Katherine of Aragon, this book follows on with Herny VIII’s relationship with Anne Boleyn and its downfall once Henry has decided he now likes Jane Seymour. The book shows the manipulation of the King by his many subjects and how he plays the legal system and his status to get his own way once again.
Thomas Cromwell, the protagonist is both a strong and weak character, strength through his seemingly ever growing power base, but also weak much deeper down through his obsession to do anything to please the King and stay on the tight side of him at any cost – perhaps something he learnt from the Cardinal who fell onto the wrong side of Henry in the Wolf Hall novel. Although the story is told from Cromwell’s voice the female characters in the book seem to have much more to them than the male – something I hadn’t noticed specifically in Wolf Hall. Not only Anne Boleyn who you expect to be conniving and manipulative but the women around her and even the quiet Jane Seymour who quietly takes Anne’s place at Henry’s side.
Listening to this has really changed my mind on Mantel, and once this challenge is complete I do feel tempted to look up some of her other novels too and also the third in the series in this trilogy when it’s complete.
‘You’re as likely to shit rubies as to learn an Englishman’s secrets’
‘In all their dealings he has buttered him like a parsnip’