I read Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel years ago and eagerly anticipated its sequel, Bring Up the Bodies, and got a copy as soon as it was released...and then proceeded to let it sit on the shelf until I finally got an audio copy and listened to it over the past few weeks.
What an amazingly good book. I know the story of Anne Boleyn and HVIII very, very well, but I was still on the edge of my seat as Mantel told the familiar story with Thomas Cromwell as the protagonist. Mantel hit on a singularly brilliant premise since Cromwell is the guy everyone loves to hate, but how can you hate him when you learn about his relationship to his family and staff.
True, he is cold-blooded and calculating, but Mantel softened this by making his overriding motivation to be his loyalty to his mentor, Cardinal Wolsey. Exacting revenge on those who brought Wolsey down guided Cromwell even more than self-preservation in Mantel's version of the story and I think it is this, as well as his treasuring of his son, Gregory, that makes Cromwell into the hero of this sad, sordid story.
I really enjoyed this as an audio book as well--the reader really made me dislike Anne, with her affected accent, and Henry, with his callous, slightly nasal sound. I think the reader, Simon Vance, really enhanced Mantel's novel with his rendition of it.
Now I'm ready to rewatch Wolf Hall, seasons 1 and 2, as we await the third book in the series, The Mirror and the Light, which is due out in 2017. Although it will be so very difficult to witness the downfall of Cromwell, as I expect book 3 to chronicle, I trust Mantel to close her story of Thomas Cromwell in a way that will make us mourn this much maligned figure of history.
The writing in Bring Up the Bodies is even better than Wolf Hall--clear, immediate, powerful, spare but rich in imagery and dense with meaning. Absolutely first rate historical fiction.
This is the 9th book in my TBR Pile Challenge that I have finished so far.