Genre: British History, Tudor History.
Rating: 5 stars for excellent.
Hilary Mantel's website.
Early autumn, 1535. Wolf Hall.
Henry has taken an interest in Jane Seymour. A pale and demure young woman. She is in sharp contrast to dark-haired, clever Anne Boleyn. Henry and Anne's marriage is in trouble. Anne's days are numbered. Katherine of Aragon, Henry's first wife and queen is ill. She had been cast aside for Anne. Anne has not produced the long awaited male heir, and Henry has become disenchanted.
In the opening pages, Bring Up The Bodies portrays Henry in the countryside hawking. His birds of prey looking down below for their conquest. "They pity no one." I believe this is symbolic for Henry's conquest for a male heir, because he does not have compassion on those he once favored, he only thinks of his quest.
The story's perspective is from Thomas Cromwell, chief minister (1532-1540.) Cromwell is a decisive, intelligent, calculating, intimidating, intentional man. Henry has give Cromwell the assignment to find a way to be rid of Anne.
The first aspect I love about Hilary Mantel's writing style is the organization of description and dialogue. These aspects in fiction stories are usually mixed together, but not in Mantel's books. She places the descriptions separate from dialogue, leaving the dialogue to be the reader's concentration. The scenery descriptions lay the ground work, they give symbolism, and create an aura. But it is the dialogue between the characters that hold with intent the focus.
Speaking of dialogue. I'd mentioned in my previous review of Wolf Hall that I felt as if I were in the room with the characters when they were in conversation. I felt the same way about Bring Up The Bodies.
Bring Up The Bodies has a strong start and a strong ending. I'd mentioned the beginning of the story in the above summary. The ending of Bring Up The Bodies is Anne Boleyn's execution. Her execution is graphic and emotional; and whether or not the reader is fond of Anne or not, it is a lamentable ending.
A surprise for me is before reading Bring Up The Bodies I'd not been fond of Jane Seymour. Her complacent, obedient, submissive, numb, and bland demeanor has been an annoyance. However, after reading Bring Up The Bodies I'm sympathetic to her plight. She is still portrayed as my descriptions but I have empathy for her. Jane has been plucked, snipped, and pinched into what the Seymour family has prepared for her future as Henry's queen. Jane reminds me of a doe caught in a thicket. I will never view Jane Seymour the same way again after reading Bring Up The Bodies.