May 15, 2012 by Reader's Connection
He being Thomas Cromwell, blacksmith´s son and trusted advisor to Henry VIII of England. Last year, I raved about Hilary Mantel´s 2009 novel Wolf Hall, in which Cromwell helped Henry divorce his first wife, Katherine of Aragon, and marry Anne Boleyn.
In Bring Up the Bodies, Mantel’s new novel, Cromwell helps Henry undo that earlier marriage and seek the hand of wife number three, Jane Seymour. Once again, Cromwell is a master schemer but a surprisingly sympathic figure, and the reader is forever having her expectations tweaked.
One moment, Cromwell is trying to create a law to employ the poor on public works. But readers who warm to this are led, one page later, into a description of how Cromwell is making money with the dissolution of monasteries. Will they warm to this as well?
Whatever you think of think of him, prepare to be fascinated with Cromwell’s vision of Tudor England, and with the novel’s three royal love interests–the ailing Katherine, who thinks she’s still the rightful queen; the momentarily triumphant Anne, who, despite her relentless plotting, often manages to say and do the wrong things; and the seemingly baffled Jane, whose parents and brothers are glad that King Henry has his eye on her, because they didn’t know what else they were going to do with the woman.
I see by the number of requests on Wolf Hall that I don’t have to tell you to read that one first. I’m a hundred pages from the end of Bring Up the Bodies, and despite his machinations regarding Anne Boleyn’s fate (at the moment he’s hoping she’ll go to a convent), I still enjoy Cromwell’s company.