I am a huge history fan, and so I knew I would simply have to review Mantel’s work when I finally got hold of the Wolf Hall series! SPOILERS.
**** – At first, I was going to put this book down. I found it started rather slowly. However, after the first one hundred or so pages, I found it picked up and began to gain its momentum. Mantel is obviously a talented writer and her characterisations are fleshed out and interesting while not straying far from traditional historical interpretations. She remains obviously respectful of her subject while embellishing the most captivating parts of the period she is writing about: 1520/30s Tudor England under Henry VIII. It is a long read, but a mainly engaging one (although I admit I did skip a few pages – sorry Hilary!) and I do recommend it. It is extremely interesting in its own right, and different in its own right from other historical novels I have read such as Phillipa Gregory’s The Other Boleyn Girl.
Bring Up The Bodies:
**** – Having continued onto the sequel almost immediately after finishing the first, I was well aware of the cast of characters Mantel skilfully weaves through her novel. However, I do have to admit that even I had had not read the first novel, I would probably have picked up and understood who the characters were and their function – Mantel is very good at introducing characters pretty subtly. The book is shorter than its predecessor, and I say it is better for that, more succinct. The description of Anne’s death was striking, and I found Mantel’s description of how Anne believed her ladies should be around her even though the reader was well aware many had essentially signed her death warrant by giving evidence to Cromwell particularly touching. Mantel managed to make sure Anne, Cromwell, and in fact, all of her characters remained human to the reader – no easy feat for historical figures.
In short, I definitely recommend both of these books if you are a fan of historical fiction without the chunky cliches and wooden writing so many seem to unfortunately employ.