Book review: Bring Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel

Book review, Hilary Mantel, Bring Up The Bodies, Wolf Hall, Booker Prize 2012, new books
The reason I have found first Wolf Hall and then Bring Up The Bodies so compelling is that I really like Thomas Cromwell.

That's not the only reason, of course. There's also the 'speaking picture' of Mantel's text, transporting readers to Henry VIII's Tudor England so completely that to read almost any other novel in close proximity is to feel you have been reduced to the Sunday comics.

But from the moment we are introduced to Thomas, the brawling, suffering blacksmith's son, we come to believe in his intrinsic goodness and more, his undefeatable strength. Perhaps he is the superman of literary historical fiction, a character we find comfort in because what ever happens, he will keep evil from his door.

Of course, evil closes in during Wolf Hall with the death of his beloved wife and daughters but still he runs a cheery house of wit and curiosity. He still seems the better person, even when he allows himself to sacrifice further lives in his quest to protect England, the King and perhaps his own legacy.

The agony of these sacrificed lives is dealt moment by moment as they go from favoured courtesans to nothing else but bodies to be brought to a bloody end. That I could think of Thomas as good knowing his connection to this torturous journey is testament to the depth, complexity and sympathy with which Mantel writes.

You may read these Man Booker Prize winning novels because you wish to encounter history or because you want to experience a book that is adjudged better than all its peers. But read them for humanity, for love, for a deepening of your sense of irony and despair and ultimately - read Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies to feel lingering thankfulness that you breath a simpler air.

One day, a Mantel of the future may right of the intrigue that surrounds American or Russian presidents or some other inheritor of large power. And if they bring truth to the story as Mantel does to hers, then a thing or two will be learned, but nothing will change.

Bring Up The Bodies - the copy I (Peter Hallett) read for this review is a 411 page paperback published by Fourth Estate (Harper Collins) and purchased at Shearers on Norton for $32.99. You can also buy it by clicking the Booktopia link: - Australia's #1 online bookstore


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