Historical fiction authors write about historical figures that interest them, are a particular favorite, or have a special place in their heart. The tricky part of being a historical fiction author is writing about that historical figure you admire. Writers must present a complex and fair portrayal of the subject they admire. It is evident that Hilary Mantel greatly admires Thomas Cromwell as she made him the subject of her two historical fiction novels: “Wolf Hall” and the most recent release “Bring Up the Bodies”. While “Wolf Hall” introduced readers to the man that was Thomas Cromwell, “Bring Up the Bodies” becomes a love letter to him.
“Bring Up the Bodies” follows the downfall of Anne Boleyn seen through the eyes of the man who helped orchestrate it: Thomas Cromwell. The novel details the ruin of the marriage between King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, the rise of Jane Seymour and her family, and eventually the executions of Anne and the men accused of adultery with her. The novel portrays Cromwell’s role in the downfall of the queen as well as his new relationships with the rising family: the Seymours. The novel is a psychological approach to Cromwell and his thoughts and actions during this turbulent time in Tudor history. Readers will get the innermost thoughts of not the larger-than-life king or fallen queen, but the man behind everything.
“Bring Up the Bodies” is well-written and impeccably researched. No reader can deny that. Mantel puts a tremendous amount of work and passion in her novels. The problem is Thomas Cromwell is painted as some perfect man who can do not wrong. He solves the king’s problems, he forms solid relationships with everyone, he can orchestrate anything and come out smelling like a rose. Cromwell was not a good man, he was deeply flawed and a scheming man hungry for power, but Mantel’s portrayal makes him seem like the hero in the dramatic Tudor court. Cromwell is not as well-rounded of a character in “Bring Up the Bodies” as he was in “Wolf Hall”.
Mantel does do a fantastic job portraying the downfall of Anne Boleyn and her final days. The last hundred pages of the novel make up for the sluggish beginning of the novel. Readers will feel as if they are along for the ride with Cromwell.
“Bring Up the Bodies” is a well-written novel, but not as strong as “Wolf Hall”. There is simply too much perfect Cromwell and not enough human Cromwell for readers to fully appreciate the work.
To purchase “Bring Up the Bodies”: http://www.amazon.com/Bring-Up-Bodies-Hilary-Mantel/dp/0805090037
For more information on Hilary Mantel: http://literature.britishcouncil.org/hilary-mantel