Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel – Audiobook Review

Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel, narrated by Simon Vance
Published in audio by Macmillan Audio, published in print by Henry Holt & Co, both imprints of Macmillan

Bring up the Bodies is the sequel to Wolf Hall.

Synopsis:

His attempt to marry Anne Boleyn irrevocably changed England, but now Henry VIII is growing disenchanted with his wife. Her one living child is another mere girl, like his child with his first wife, Katherine, and although Anne has conceived since she has failed to carry any more babies to term. In addition to feeling cheated in the return on his investment, Henry also finds himself increasingly intrigued by shy, quiet Jane Seymour. There is only one man who the king trusts to do his bidding and make sure that his ends are achieved: Thomas Cromwell.

Thoughts on the story:

In Bring Up the Bodies, Hilary Mantel continues telling the story of Cromwell and his machinations on behalf of Henry VIII. She clearly took to heart the criticisms of Wolf Hall, particularly that it is at times difficult to follow in the myriad of “he”s. In Bring up the Bodies, Mantel frequently clarifies when talking about Cromwell, the phrase “he, Cromwell” is sprinkled liberally throughout the text. It is actually present to the extent that it seems a bit overdone, almost as if she was attempting to prove a point about her choices in Wolf Hall. Bring up the Bodies is shorter and, in general, much more accessible than Wolf Hall while still being incredibly well-written.

Thoughts on the audio production:

Simon Vance was ON with his vocal differentiation and accents in Bring up the Bodies. I was initially put off by his voices for both Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, but shortly after each of them first speak, Mantel describes their voices/accents and Vance’s interpretations match perfectly.  The audio format does bring out Mantel’s “he, Cromwell” more prominently to the point where it is almost annoying, but Vance’s appealing narration smooths over that minor textual irritation.

Overall:

As much as I enjoyed Wolf Hall, I found Bring up the Bodies to be even better. I highly recommend it in general, and even more highly recommend having Simon Vance whisper Mantel’s fascinating words and stories into your ears.

Buy this book from:
Powells: Audio/Print*
Indiebound: Audio/Print*

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Source: Personal.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.
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Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel – Book Review

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

If you don’t already know what this book is about, there is a good chance this isn’t the sort of book you would like, because this has got to be hands-down the most talked about historical fiction novel of the past 12 months: Henry VIII’s court from Thomas Cromwell’s point of view.

Thomas Cromwell. Not, perhaps, the most sympathetic character from Henry VIII’s reign, and there were an awful lot of unsympathetic characters running around that court. In most works of historical fiction, Cromwell is vilified, detested; he is a horrible, horrible man who craves naught but power and influence. Honestly, doesn’t sound like the sort of man that I would like to read a 600 page book about, whose head I would want to be in for that long.

But Mantel does something special with Cromwell in “Wolf Hall.” She humanizes him, and actually makes him sympathetic. Honestly, I’m not even sure how she did it. Although we are somewhat in Cromwell’s head throughout the story, her narration is still in third person and somehow everything seems a little  on the distant side – I felt almost as if I was watching everything take place through a pane of frosted glass. And yet, I felt that I understood him, that I cared what he thought and felt.

One of the main things that everyone has talked about with this book is the fact that it is a difficult read. In particular, Mantel almost always refers to Cromwell simply as ‘he’ and, yes, when he’s talking to other men, that gets very confusing. And really, some of the passages are just plain dense, and a bit hard to get through, in the second and third sections particularly.

But then, in the second half of the book, it just all came together for me. I was completely drawn into the story by that point, I was used to Mantel’s writing, and it all just flowed. I loved it. LOVED it. I’ve never read Tudor fiction like this, I’ve never seen Cromwell as a character like this and, despite early difficulties, I absolutely adored it.

If you love literary fiction and historical fiction and are willing to put a little work into your books, I highly recommend “Wolf Hall.”

A note on how I read this: I actually read “Wolf Hall” over about six weeks, reading a section each weekend to discuss on Monday with a friend. Although the discussions petered out, I think that reading it like this really worked well for me. Trying to read the entire thing at once might have burned me out, but having it as my weekend read with other books during the week always left me wanting more, particularly towards the end when I got really into it.

Buy this book from:
Powells.*
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound
.*
Amazon
.*

This review was done with a book received as a gift.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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