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"The man who commits adultery with another man's wife, he who commits adultery with his neighbor's wife, the adulterer and the adulteress, shall surely be put to death." -- Leviticus 20:10 (NKJV)
In the first book in this planned trilogy, Wolf Hall, we saw the unexpected and adept rise to power of Thomas Cromwell in serving King Henry VIII. At the end of that book, Henry was smitten with Jane Seymour and Cromwell had a sense that this was an opportunity to overcome Anne Boleyn whom he had helped to become queen at the king's request.
In Bring Up the Bodies, we follow the plottings leading up to the death of the former queen, Katherine of Aragon, the failed attempts by Anne Boleyn to provide a male heir, the rise of the Boleyns, continental power politics, and the king's (and Cromwell's) desire to gain income from church lands. The book culminates in the trial and execution of Anne Boleyn and those found guilty of adultery with her. We also see Henry VIII as an aging man, grown more foolish in his desires to stay young. With lots of dialogue and stream of consciousness narration, we see the delicate balance that Cromwell had to keep in all of his endeavors. It was a mighty challenge.
The strength of this historical novel is making the events of a distant past more understandable and emotional for us at this distance in time. I applaud Ms. Mantel again for choosing Thomas Cromwell as her narrator. He is the ideal character to cast these events into a more objective light. She lightly trods the balance between real events and guessing what Cromwell thought of them in a way that seems wholly accurate . . . while making the telling much more compelling by placing us in it as we identify with Cromwell's desire to properly serve the king's and England's interests.
a most engaging tale of time travel, sea faring, pirates, kidnappings, medical intrigue and enduring marital love. excellent read from a beloved author.