Sunday, 9 June 2013

Evil comes in increments

Bring Up the Bodies (Thomas Cromwell, #2)Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I had to wait about seven months in the library holds queue for this, and when I finally got my sticky fingers on it (which I wiped off, because it was a library loan), I was at first anxious because this audiobook version has a different reader and part of the reason I'd enjoyed Wolf Hall so much was because of the performance of Simon Slater.  I needn't have worried; Simon Vance is every bit as talented as the other Simon.

This second part of the trilogy about the controversial life and career of Thomas Cromwell covers a much shorter period of time than Wolf Hall -- the brief period that Anne Boleyn was the official consort of Henry VIII -- while being about the same number of pages.  I trust you know what happened to her. This has the effect of intensifying the narrative.

I was looking forward to discovering how Hilary Mantel, who portrayed Thomas Cromwell in a sympathetic light in the previous book (the story is from his viewpoint, after all) would transform this chief minister of the king from a fairly decent man into someone who could send a woman to the scaffold, knowing full well that the charges against her were fabricated.  Anne Boleyn is not shown in a flattering light, but being a bit of a cow shouldn't be a death sentence. The answer comes in increments, as most evil things do.  In Bring Up the Bodies (a sinister title, but actually a legal expression), Cromwell has no grand plan to bring about Anne's death, but one unfortunate statement after another gradually seals the queen's fate.

I particularly enjoyed the imagery in this novel, from the eerie descriptions of Cromwell's hunting hawks (named after his dead wife and daughters) which open this part of the story to the description of the doomed queen's reflection in the Thames as she is led out to the boat that will take her to the Tower of London.

It will be a long wait for the third part of the trilogy -- Mantel is still writing it, and then there will be many holds ahead of me at the library.  Judging from what has come before, the wait will be worth it.

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