Alas, my love you do me wrong – “Bring Up the Bodies” by Hilary Mantel

January 2, 2013 at 9:08 am 2 comments

Portrait of Anne Boleyn, Henry's second queen;...

“Bring Up the Bodies” by Hilary Mantel, Published in 2012

This is Mantel’s second novel out of what will be a trilogy of historical fiction detailing the life of Thomas Cromwell.  The first novel “Wolf Hall” and “Bring Up the Bodies” have both won the Man Booker Prize for fiction.  “Bring Up the Bodies” is the first sequel to win this award, so that in and of itself is fairly impressive. In this sequel, Cromwell has become King Henry VIII’s right hand man and, at his behest, orchestrates the downfall of Anne Boleyn.

Out of all of the scandals of royalty the one that seems to most capture the imagination of the general public is the story of Anne Boleyn.   The King’s love for her resulted in political and religious chaos for the entire British Kingdom.  She was able to oust Queen Katherine and Catholicism all while donning green-sleeves (or so the story goes). But as Mantel details, Anne and the Boleyn family become a bit too impressed with themselves. And of course Anne is not able to give the King the one thing she had promised, a son.  The King’s eye begins to wander and Cromwell is charged with, again, helping Henry get out of yet another marriage. And of course, all of this ends with charges of treason, incest, and multiple beheadings.

I enjoyed this novel far more than the prequel.  I found “Wolf Hall” to be long and a lot of work to slog through.  In fact because of my issues with “Wolf Hall” I was avoiding this book until I heard Mantel interviewed on Fresh Air. I was so taken with her I thought I would give her another try.

“Bring Up the Bodies” left me a bit conflicted. Overall, the novel was engaging and Cromwell’s role in this chapter of Henry VIII’s reign is a fresh look at a well-known story.  However, Mantel seems to struggle with momentum.  The book drags a bit through-out the last 100 pages, which should and could have been much more interesting.  What Mantel was able to do, and quite well actually, is make the story eerily sad.  The reader knows where all of this is headed. All of Cromwell’s precautions and safeguards will still end badly for him and that makes him, as a character, very sympathetic even when his actions are cruel.  Placed in this type of literary context, all of the death and heartbreak caused by Henry VIII’s lust is hard to fathom.   And of course echoed through-out the book is the fact that with Elizabeth’s bright future all of this is just so tragically pointless.

Other reviews to check out:

From BookerTalk

From Feisty Red Hair

From Chalk the Sun

Entry filed under: January 2013 reads. Tags: , , , , , , .

The good life isn’t all it’s cracked up to be- “Broken Harbor (Harbour)” by Tana French The best laid plans – “What Alice Forgot” by Liane Moriarty

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. kheenand  |  January 3, 2013 at 1:20 pm

    Wow, thanks for the call out – very kind of you.So glad you didn’t give up because you didn’t like WHall. Do you think you might enjoy that more now that you’ve had the ‘Bodies’ experience?

    • 2. Emily C  |  January 3, 2013 at 8:24 pm

      That is a good question and I think it probably would be more enjoyable. I may need to give that a try. I know I am looking forward to the third book. And I enjoyed your blog so I was happy to give the referral! Happy reading.


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There is some great literature out there, but there is a lot of bad literature as well. We shouldn't all have to read it. These are my recommendations and thoughts about the books I read.


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