In my 2012 list of best reads of the year, I’ve reached number 9, which is Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel. For Mantel fans, who are many, this was eagerly awaited and, for those who enjoyed Wolf Hall, it was the sort of sequel we had all hoped for. Justifiably, it won its author a second Booker Prize and set readers wondering not only when the promised third volume will appear but whether Mantel might even win again. (My bookmaker is not taking bets.) You can find extended reviews elsewhere so I am concentrating on my views.
The book is both a delight but it is also challenge to the reader’s concentration. We are reading the innermost thoughts of Cromwell; seeing the life of the times through his eyes. The pace is in part sustained by the very effective use of the historic present tense in which to recount Thomas Cromwell’s version of the story from the point of Henry VIII’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon until the death of Anne Boleyn. This may not be the easiest of reads but for many it is the most rewarding. Verdict 10 out of 10
STOP PRESS: The BBC will be adapting both Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies for television and the RSC are making stage adaptations. The title of the third book of the trilogy will be The Mirror and the Light.