Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel

This continuation of Wolf Hall picks up with Henry VIII married to Anne Boleyn but Katherine of Arragon is still alive and that is causing trouble.  Anne has given birth to a daughter, Elizabeth.  But Henry is still hoping for a son. 

The book starts with a cast of characters, which is very helpful.  There are many people at court  and some people are known by more than one name.  There is also a genealogical chart which is even more helpful. At the start, Cromwell is still in favor and fixing things for Henry's capricious whims.  What ever Henry wants, the common born Cromwell will make happen.  Cromwell has a vested interest in keeping Henry happy, it keeps him (Cromwell) alive.  While Cromwell is alive, Henry Moore, who was Henry VIII conscience is now dead.  Martyred say his supporters.  Katherine has been divorced and is under house arrest as is her daughter, Mary.  The Boleyn's are climbing at court because of Anne.  But Jane Seymour has caught Henry's eye.  He is becoming more and more dissatisfied with Anne and the lack of sons and is looking for a new wife.
This book is chocked full of historical details.  Cromwell is the narrator and this gives a different perspective to the story.  Mantel is deft at showing Cromwell's personality, especially during the interrogation sequence of Henry Norris.  "He needs quality men.  So he has found men who are guilty.  Though perhaps not as guilty as charged."  (page 330)  This single passage shows the convoluted logic that was present at the time.

The title of the book comes from an order given to the jailer at the Tower of London to bring those being held to court for trial.  And bodies there are.  Everyone pays for Henry's wishes in this book.  Well written and interesting, this book captures the spirit and horror of the time.

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08/31/12
 
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