From what I have read, we know a lot about Thomas Cromwell’s deeds but not a lot about his motivations, feelings or thoughts.
This is what Hilary Mantel gives us with Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies.
Mantel gives Cromwell flesh, heart and thoughts. Via these two novels we see Cromwell’s desires, his disappointments and doubts. We gain insights into his childhood and his family life. We feel empathy for his losses and fears. Mantel’s intimate portrayal of Cromwell shows us a man full of contradictions.
Mantel helps us to understand how it might have been to live under the reign of Henry and how events might have evolved into the facts that we know. We see personalities clash amd listen in on key conversations. Mantel gives cause and effect a voice. She shows us the consequences of betrayal, lies and outrage.
Changing loyalties, personal safety, fear, loneliness, revenge all have their roles. Through Cromwell’s eyes we see the dangers of the Tudor court, a King declining into despotism, not afraid to kill to get his way. And what the people around him have to do to keep their heads and the peace!
Such big themes rich in drama and complexity. How extraordinary to feel love and sympathy for a man reviled in the history books. Bring Up the Bodies is a wonderous read.
I can’t wait for the final instalment.
Though he battled for years to marry her, Henry VIII has become disenchanted with the audacious Anne Boleyn. She has failed to give him a son, and her sharp intelligence and strong will have alienated his old friends and the noble families of England.
When the discarded Katherine, Henry’s first wife, dies in exile from the court, Anne stands starkly exposed, the focus of gossip and malice, setting in motion a dramatic trial of the queen and her suitors for adultery and treason.
At a word from Henry, Thomas Cromwell is ready to bring her down. Over a few 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. To defeat the Boleyns, Cromwell must ally himself with his enemies. What price will he pay for Annie’s head?