Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Hilary Mantel, Bring Up the Bodies
Thomas Cromwell was for a time Henry VIII's right hand man. He helped bring about the fall of Catherine of Aragon and the marriage to Anne Boleyn, and then he engineered Boleyn's fall so Henry could marry Jane Seymour. He also helped bring about Henry's break from Rome and the reformation of the English church. For all of this he has been intensely controversial ever since. For some reason much of the hatred that belongs to Henry devolved instead on his servant Cromwell, who became the classic wicked adviser. He was therefore a bold choice to make the hero of a major novel. But it works brilliantly. Wolf Hall follows Cromwell's rise to greatness, from blacksmith's son to soldier to Cardinal Wolsey's "man of business," and thence into Henry's service when Wolsey fell. Bring Up the Bodies finds Cromwell at the height of his wealth and power, gathering more and more of the English government into his hands, managing the dissolution of smaller and more corrupt monasteries to the profit of the king and his friends, and watching anxiously for Anne Boleyn to bear the son that was the whole point of her marriage to Henry. When Anne fails in this duty and Henry tires of her, a new crisis overtakes the court, and Cromwell must find his way through it.