Hilary Mantel’s second epic novel about Thomas Cromwell had a lot to live up to. Its prequel Wolf Hall won the Man Booker prize and one can’t help think that in the 3 years it took the author to write this one that it could have been more substantial.
I should mention, of course, that Bring up the Bodies also won the Man Booker prize and has gained critical acclaim and plaudits across the world. However, I felt that it was a bit of a let-down. That is not to say the narrative, structure or plot were lacking but Mantel’s style of writing which was so engaging in the first novel becomes rather insipid and pedantic in the second. Endless repetitions of ‘he, Cromwell,’ begin to spoil the flow by the time you are 50 pages in. If a reader is tackling a book of this character, genre and reputation we are usually clever enough to work out who is doing the talking!
Please don’t misunderstand me; I enjoyed this book a lot. Mantel takes the well-known story of fall of Anne Boleyn and presents it from completely different and refreshing angle. She also casts a new light on Jane Seymour who I have always pictured as a mouse of a woman with little thought or opinion of her own at the mercy of her brothers and the king.
Overall, Bring up the Bodies doesn’t quite live up to the standards of Wolf Hall but it is still a good novel and certainly with the flood of Tudor court novels in the last decade still stands out as one of the best.