I love The Tudor Era in British History. There is so much that it offers in terms of plots, narratives and what actually took place. Henry VIII has always been a personality that has been elusive in history. Writers and biographers have tried hard to document everything about him and his six wives, and most of it has been brilliant stuff. To add to this “Wolf Hall” by Hilary Mantel was released in 2009 and won the Booker Prize as well for its taut writing and great storytelling.
Wolf Hall told the story of the Tudor Era from the perspective of Thomas Cromwell and his growing up years and how he came to be assigned to Court as Henry’s closest confidant and Master Secretary. The book also depicted Katharine of Aragon’s state at court and how the entire council, especially Cromwell plotted to get King Henry a divorce from her and marry his sweetheart, Anne Boleyn.
Bring up the Bodies begins in September of 1535 and covers just over one year. Anne Boleyn has been married to King Henry VIII for just under 3 years. She has born him a daughter, Elizabeth, who will rule England one day. She has not managed to produce a male heir. England is in a state of turmoil due to Henry’s drifting away from the Vatican and his controversial annulment to his beloved first wife, Katharine. Amidst all this Jane Seymour – the Queen’s lady-in-waiting catches the King’s attention and everything is a mess. Anne has a miscarriage the same day as Queen Katharine is buried. King Henry wants out of the marriage and this is not a good sign for Anne or her family that schemed and plotted to make her Queen.
Hilary Mantel as usual does a fantastic job of Historical Fiction. The first of her books that I read was, “A Place of Great Safety” – which is based around the time of the French Revolution focusing on the lives of Georges Danton, Camille Desmoulins and Maximilien Robespierre, and not to mention was again brilliantly told.
The reason I love her books is that the descriptions come alive instantly. While reading Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies, one feels that Mantel has successfully transported you to 16th century England and its problems.
King Henry VIII’s life and times have always fascinated me. However, this book is less about him and more about Thomas Cromwell and what he experiences at Court. Thomas Cromwell’s character is sketched to perfection. He is struggling throughout the book – to do what is right to the King and what he thinks is correct. This conflict has been brought about superbly in the book.
Hilary Mantel’s skill surpasses in this book and I cannot wait to read the third book, which will complete the trilogy of Thomas Cromwell. Her writing is to the point and precise. The narrative is intricate. Mantel’s writing moves through Cromwell’s consciousness from thought to thought, as the drama of Anne Boleyn’s life is played out. I will for sure read more of her books, which I have missed in the past. One of the few writers whose craft is super.
Here is my favourite quote from the book:
“Those who are made can be unmade”