This is Mantel's second book about Thomas Cromwell, after the magnificent Wolf Hall. When Bring up the bodies was published, in May last, I immediately set out to read it. The huge cast of characters had mostly stayed the same, making this new novel instantly recognizable. Also the same was Mantel's writing. Her style is hard to describe: fluid literary language that somehow feels genuine for the period of more that 450 years ago. A lot of dialogue as well; sometimes it almost reads like a play. One of the challenges with Mantel, though, is determining who is speaking. After a while you learn that an undetermined 'he' always refers to Cromwell. She has a few more peculiarities, but you can get used to all of them. That is, if you can get in the flow and stay there. For some reason I couldn't do that at my first try back in May. I put the book away and left it by my bedside a few months. But lately I've been in a mood to clear up some of my books in the 'still to be read'-pile and that included Bring up the bodies. This time I was able to get into Mantel's groove and finish it in a few days. Like Wolf Hall it feels like a warm bath, the period of Henry VIII that Mantel sets up so brilliantly. Bring up the bodies reads like a political thriller, although you mostly know how it will end. It's about all the scheming and intrigue that precede that ending. So, Mantel again wrote an excellent novel about Thomas Cromwell, but slightly below the level of Wolf Hall. It does make me curious about the third and final book in this trilogy.
3 September 2012
Fourth Estate, 2012