Off With Her Head!
I finally got a copy of Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies, the sequel to Wolf Hall, chronicling the life of Thomas Cromwell as Master Secretary to Henry VIII. I wrote about Wolf Hall in a previous post. While I do recommend the first novel, it’s not necessary to read it before heading into this latest tome.
This novel begins at the downfall of Queen Anne Boleyn and the rise of Jane Seymour. Boleyn has failed to provide the king with a male heir and Henry’s feelings for his wife are starting to wane. The king begins to utter concerns into Cromwell’s ear, questioning whether his wife had beguiled him with her charms. New perspectives on the case lead to new interpretations and accusations sail.
While this point of history was fascinating to me in school, the novel really gives a sense of the unrest and the ambiguity of what’s to come of England. With the removal of Boleyn, will England become Catholic again? Will France or Spain invade? Will Mary be recognized in the line of succession or will they have to find a reason to execute her? Cromwell himself had to consider his own role in things in order to avoid being sent to the Tower of London. Tensions are rising and Cromwell must now face the question himself: how long until I am approaching the scaffolding?
Mantel has yet again executed a well-written account of Cromwell’s actions. It is clear she poured over the various documents from this period and crafted a story to the best of her ability. I enjoyed every minute of it!