Summary and book reviews of Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel

Bring Up the Bodies

Wolf Hall Trilogy #2

by Hilary Mantel

Bring Up the Bodies
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  • First Published:
    May 2012, 432 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2013, 432 pages

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Book Summary

The sequel to Hilary Mantel's 2009 Man Booker Prize winner and New York Times bestseller, Wolf Hall, delves into the heart of Tudor history with the downfall of Anne Boleyn.

Though he battled for seven years to marry her, Henry is disenchanted with Anne Boleyn. She has failed to give him a son and her sharp intelligence and audacious will alienate his old friends and the noble families of England. When the discarded Katherine dies in exile from the court, Anne stands starkly exposed, the focus of gossip and malice.

At a word from Henry, Thomas Cromwell is ready to bring her down. Over three terrifying weeks, Anne is ensnared in a web of conspiracy, while the demure Jane Seymour stands waiting her turn for the poisoned wedding ring. But Anne and her powerful family will not yield without a ferocious struggle. Hilary Mantel's Bring Up the Bodies follows the dramatic trial of the queen and her suitors for adultery and treason. To defeat the Boleyns, Cromwell must ally with his natural enemies, the papist aristocracy. What price will he pay for Anne's head?

I
Falcons

Wiltshire, September 1535

His children are falling from the sky. He watches from horseback, acres of England stretching behind him; they drop, gilt-winged, each with a blood-filled gaze. Grace Cromwell hovers in thin air. She is silent when she takes her prey, silent as she glides to his fist. But the sounds she makes then, the rustle of feathers and the creak, the sigh and riffle of pinion, the small cluck-cluck from her throat, these are sounds of recognition, intimate, daughterly, almost disapproving. Her breast is gore-streaked and flesh clings to her claws.

Later, Henry will say, 'Your girls flew well today.' The hawk Anne Cromwell bounces on the glove of Rafe Sadler, who rides by the king in easy conversation. They are tired; the sun is declining, and they ride back to Wolf Hall with the reins slack on the necks of their mounts. Tomorrow his wife and two sisters will go out. These dead women, their bones long sunk in London clay, are now transmigrated. ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. The novel starts off with a description of hawks soaring in the sky and swooping in to slaughter their prey. In the same manner, the novel closes off with an image of a fox attacking a hen coop. What is the significance of these animals and what do they symbolize?

  2. How has Cromwell's upbringing influenced him to become the shrewd and ambitious man that he is? What is the significance of Cromwell refusing to adopt the coat of arms belonging to a noble Cromwell family even as he widens the chasm between his father and himself? How does Cromwell view family and how is it different from his own experience growing up?

  3. How is King Henry VIII described in the novel? Is he self-serving, or does he truly believe in the validity of his ...
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  • award image

    Costa Book Awards
    2012

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    Man Booker Prize
    2012

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    Costa Book Awards
    2012

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Reviews

Media Reviews

The Huffington Post

After pulling off this literary feat twice, you realize the smartest person in the room isn't Cromwell after all—it’s Mantel.

People

What’s being called the Wolf Hall Trilogy is a remarkable work in progress, a series that makes the past feel immediate and—this is the best part—unpredictable. Even if you know the history, you’ll find yourself racing through these pages to find out what happens next.

The New York Times Book Review

[Bring Up the Bodies] is astringent and purifying, stripping away the cobwebs and varnish of history, the antique formulations and brocaded sentimentality of costume drama novels, so that the English past comes to seem like something vivid , strange and brand new.

Entertainment Weekly

In Mantel's hands, Cromwell's cunning, morally complicated orchestration of that historic slice through the royal neck is as exciting as any thriller.

Publishers Weekly

Like its predecessor, the book is written in the present tense, rare for a historical novel. But the choice makes the events unfold before us: one wrong move and all could be lost...

The Economist

Fans of Wolf Hall will relish this book, but Bring Up the Bodies also stands alone…Her characters are real and vivid people who bring to life the clash of ideals that gripped England at the time. She makes the past present and vital.

Reader Reviews

jww

Who knew history could be so much fun?
A very large book - in number of pages and in content - and every page worth reading. Thoroughly enjoyed this one and her first book on the subjects, Wolf Hall. This one was more tightly edited and a bit easier to read because of that, but would ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Cast of Characters

Henry VIII
King of England 1509-1547
Painted by Hans Holbein in 1536

German painter Hans Holbein made his reputation in Basel, designing wood blocks for book printers, and painting portraits and commissions for churches. Despite his relative success, the disturbed conditions of the Reformation led him to doubt his financial future and thus seek work in Britain. During his first visit in 1526 he was patronized by the circle of Sir Thomas More. Until his death Holbein was employed by Henry VIII in a wide assortment of tasks, ranging from designing court costumes, silverware, jewelry and triumphal arches to painting portraits of the actual and prospective brides of the monarch.

Thomas Cromwell
...

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