Hot off the Press: Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
It [Wolf Hall] was a hard act to follow. But the follow-up is equally sublime. In answer to what will surely be everyone’s first question about Ms. Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies: Yes, you can read it cold. Knowledge of Wolf Hall is not a prerequisite to appreciating what Bring Up the Bodies describes, because Ms. Mantel sets up her new book so gracefully. All of Cromwell’s scheming to expedite Henry VIII’s casting off of his first wife, Katherine of Aragon, to marry Anne Boleyn is behind him. So is the schism with the Roman Catholic Church that the first book so thoroughly outlined, maneuver by crafty manoeuvre.
Janet Maslin, New York Times
Mantel is an extraordinary novelist, a remarkable stylist, and rather a commonplace historian: a careful 2.1 and not a daring First. She aims to please us. For Cromwell, and hence for us as readers, the monasteries at the point of dissolution are inventories – lists of treasures, lists of crimes. Mantel never lets us suspect that the inspectors Cromwell sends to the monasteries are her rivals as fiction writers, and she squares their crass homophobia with our 21st-century sensibilities by allowing Cromwell to think all monastic homoeroticism is paedophilia – “prey[ing] on the younger and weaker novices” – rather than consensual relations between adults, with which their reports are in fact concerned. This is pitch-perfect for readers whose ideas derive from CJ Sansom’s detective fiction Dissolution.
Diane Purkiss, Financial Times