Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Splendid sequel | Bring Up the Bodies

I'll admit: I was kind of avoiding reading Bring Up the Bodies. It wasn't just the anticipation (I haven't been this excited for a book to come out in years); rather, the sheer amount of praise heaped on Bring Up the Bodies scared me away. Everyone loved it. No one was disappointed. Many reviewers said it was better than Wolf Hall - which is a pretty huge hill to climb. But then I finished the book I was in the middle of. Then I read another. The guilt mounted. The eagerness to dive back into Cromwell's complex and intelligent world became overwhelming. I prepared myself for disappointment.

If I was disappointed by anything, it's the fact that I cannot prove any of the other reviewers wrong. Bring Up the Bodies is a flat-out brilliant book. And yes: it may in fact be better than Wolf Hall. My mind is blown, just suggesting that.

A lot of what makes Bring Up the Bodies so good can be found in its predecessor. Hilary Mantel's writing is something else. It's intelligent and clever without being pretentious, descriptive without feeling overblown, detailed and packed with information without being dense, and Mantel's imagination of Thomas Cromwell is genius. The story may be familiar to many on the surface, but presenting it through the eyes of a man history has not been particularly sympathetic towards makes for fascinating reading. The depth that all characters are given - familiar and not-so-familiar - sets Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies apart from the vast majority of fiction (historical or otherwise).

What may make Bring Up the Bodies a better book has something to do with the story it tells. Wolf Hall had a lot of introductions, a lot of stage-setting; it told a story that was spread out across decades. Bring Up the Bodies is significantly more focused, in a way that makes it a quicker, more satisfying read. And there's no point denying it: it's also a bit of a juicier, more dramatic story. Who can say no to that? Mantel has also sharpened her writing style: the "he" references to Cromwell in Wolf Hall bordered on confusing, but are presented in a simpler, more accessible way in Bring Up the Bodies (often in the form of "he, Cromwell"). It's a cleaner read that seems determined to prevent Bring Up the Bodies from being mislabeled as "dense" (as its predecessor was so often unfairly dubbed).

So yes. Bring Up the Bodies is a worthy successor to Wolf Hall and a wonderful book in its own right. Now I just need to remember that when the third book in Mantel's trilogy comes out, I should not doubt her ability to complete Cromwell's story in the best possible way. I can hardly wait.


  1. Just posted my own review! Loved it to very much. see my review :

  2. I bought this for my mom and she loved it but I might decide to wait until the third book comes out so I can read them back to back-I hate the long waits in between books even as I recognize that Mantel needs time to write her story.

    1. Part of the enjoyment dear bookworm is the anticipation. I was soooooo excited waiting for this book. I work in a bookshop and I nearly embraced the courier the day he brought the boxes full of BUTB! And I had the pleasure of buying the first one and starting it in my lunch break.
      I will love every day of the wait for book 3 as it means I will get to remember the characters every single day until then (rather like the anticipation I have for A Suitable Girl's publication date!)

  3. i just skimmed your review because i'm still in the middle of reading this fantastic book! i'm glad you liked it so much. it's a slow read for me so far but soooo good!

  4. This post makes me so happy! I read the first chapter of Bring Up the Bodies, then put it aside for one book, then another, and another. Was almost afraid to pick it up for fear that my expectations are too high. Looks like I can get back to it soon.


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