Bring up the Bodies (Mantel)

Bring Up the Bodies (Wolf Hall Trilogy, 2)
Hilary Mantel, 2012
Henry Holt
432 pp.
ISBN-13: 9780805090031


Summary
The sequel to Hilary Mantel's 2009 Man Booker Prize winner and New York Times bestseller, Wolf Hall delves into the heart of Tudor history with the downfall of Anne Boleyn

Though he battled for seven years to marry her, Henry is disenchanted with Anne Boleyn. She has failed to give him a son and her sharp intelligence and audacious will alienate his old friends and the noble families of England. When the discarded Katherine dies in exile from the court, Anne stands starkly exposed, the focus of gossip and malice.

At a word from Henry, Thomas Cromwell is ready to bring her down. Over three 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.

Hilary Mantel's Bring Up the Bodies follows the dramatic trial of the queen and her suitors for adultery and treason. To defeat the Boleyns, Cromwell must ally with his natural enemies, the papist aristocracy. What price will he pay for Anne's head?. (From the publisher.)

Wolf Hall, the first book of the planned trilogy, was published in 2009 and received both the Man Booker Prize and (US) National Book Critics Circle Award.



Author Bio
Birth—July 6, 1952
Where—Glossop, Derbyshire, England, UK
Education—University of Sheffield
Awards—Man Booker Prize
Currently—lives in England


Hilary Mantel is the author of ten previous novels, including Wolf Hall, A Change of Climate, A Place of Greater Safety, and Eight Months on Ghazzah Street. She has also written a memoir, Giving Up the Ghost. Winner of the Hawthornden Prize, she reviews for the New York Times, New York Review of Books, and London Review of Books. She lives in England. (From the publisher.)

More
Hilary Mary Mantel CBE* is an English novelist, short story writer and critic. Her work, ranging in subject from personal memoir to historical fiction, has been short-listed for major literary awards. In 2009, she won the Man Booker Prize for her novel Wolf Hall.

She was born in Glossop, Derbyshire, the eldest of three children, and was brought up in the Derbyshire mill village of Hadfield, attending the local Roman Catholic primary school. Her family is of Irish origin but her parents, Margaret and Henry Thompson, were born in England. After losing touch with her father at the age of eleven, she took the name of her stepfather, Jack Mantel. Her family background, the mainspring of much of her fiction, is explained in her memoir, Giving Up the Ghost.

Mantel attended Harrytown Convent in Romiley, Cheshire, and in 1970 went to the London School of Economics to read law. She transferred to the University of Sheffield and graduated as Bachelor of Jurisprudence in 1973. After graduating she worked in the social work department of a geriatric hospital, and then as a saleswoman. In 1974 she began writing a novel about the French Revolution, which was later published as A Place of Greater Safety.

In 1977 she went to live in Botswana with her husband, Gerald McEwen, a geologist, whom she had married in 1972. Later they spent four years in Jeddah in Saudi Arabia—a memoir of this time, Someone to Disturb, has been published in the London Review of Books. During her twenties she suffered from a debilitating and painful illness. This was initially diagnosed as a psychiatric illness for which she was hospitalised and treated with anti-psychotic drugs. These produced a paradoxical reaction of psychotic symptoms and for some years she refrained from seeking help from doctors. Finally, in Africa, and desperate, she consulted a medical text-book and realised she was probably suffering from a severe form of endometriosis, a diagnosis confirmed back in London. The condition and necessary surgery left her unable to have children and continued to disrupt her life, with continued treatment by steroids radically changing her appearance. She is now patron of the Endometriosis SHE Trust.

Novels
Her first novel, Every Day is Mother's Day, was published in 1985, and its sequel, Vacant Possession, a year later. Returning to England, she became the film critic of The Spectator and a reviewer for a number of papers and magazines in Britain and the US.

Her novel Eight Months on Ghazzah Street, which drew on her first-hand experience in Saudi Arabia, uses the dangerous clash of values between the neighbours in a stifling city apartment block to illustrate the tensions between Islam and the liberal west. Her Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize winning novel Fludd is set in 1956 in a fictitious northern village called Fetherhoughton, and centres on the convent and Roman Catholic church, where a mysterious stranger brings about alchemical transformation in the lives of the downtrodden, the depressed and the despised.

A Place of Greater Safety, published in 1993, won the Sunday Express Book of the Year award, for which her two previous books had been shortlisted. A long novel written with a close eye on historical accuracy, it traces the career of three revolutionaries, Danton, Robespierre and Camille Desmoulins, from childhood to their early deaths during the Terror of 1794.

A Change of Climate is set in Norfolk in 1980, and concerns Ralph and Anna Eldred, parents of four children, whose family life threatens to disintegrate in the course of one summer, when memories which they have repressed fiercely for twenty years resurface to disrupt the purposive and peaceful lives they have tried to lead since a catastrophic event overtook them early in their married life. The action of the novel moves back to the late 1950s, when they worked for a missionary society in a dangerous and crowded South African township, and then follows the couple to Bechuanaland, where in the loneliness of a remote mission station an unspeakable loss occurs. The novel is about the possibility or impossibility of forgiveness, the clash of ideals and brutality, and the need to acknowledge that lives are broken before they can begin to be mended.

An Experiment in Love, which won the Hawthornden Prize, takes place over two university terms in 1970, and follows the progress of three girls—two friends and one enemy—as they leave home for university in London. Mrs Thatcher makes a cameo appearance in a novel that explores women’s appetites and ambitions and suggests how they are often thwarted. Though Mantel has used material from her own life, it is not an autobiographical novel.

Her next book, The Giant, O’Brien, is set in the 1780s and is based on the true story of Charles O’Brien or Byrne, who came to London to exhibit himself as a freak and whose bones hang today in the Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons. The novel treats O’Brien and his antagonist, the Scots surgeon John Hunter, less as characters in history than as mythic protagonists in a dark and violent fairytale, necessary casualties of the Age of Enlightenment. Mantel adapted the book for BBC Radio Four, in a play starring Lloyd Hutchinson as the Giant, Alex Norton as John Hunter, and Frances Tomelty and Deborah Finley as two of the women who cross their path.

In 2003 Mantel published her memoir, Giving Up the Ghost, which won the MIND ‘Book of the Year’ award, and in the same year brought out a collection of short stories, Learning To Talk. All the stories deal with childhood and, taken together, the books show how the events of a life are mediated into fiction.

Her 2005 novel, Beyond Black, was shortlisted for the Orange Prize. A scathing, very dark comedy, set in the years around the millennium, it features a professional medium, Alison Hart, whose calm and jolly exterior conceals grotesque psychic damage, and who trails around with her a troupe of ‘fiends’ who are invisible but always on the verge of becoming flesh.

Mantel was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2006 Birthday Honours.

The long novel Wolf Hall, about Henry VIII’s minister Thomas Cromwell, was published in 2009 to high critical acclaim. The book went on to win that year's Man Booker Prize and upon winning the award, Mantel stated, "I can tell you at this moment I am happily flying through the air." Judges voted three to two in favour of Wolf Hall for the prize, with Mantel being presented with a trophy and a £50,000 cash prize during an evening ceremony at the London Guildhall. The panel of judges, led by the broadcaster James Naughtie, described Wolf Hall as an "extraordinary piece of storytelling". Leading up to award, the book was backed as the favourite by bookmakers and accounted for 45% of all the nominated books' sales. By winning, it subsequently became the first favourite to win the award since 2002. And sales exploded faster than for any previous winner.

The sequel to Wolf Hall, Bring Up the Bodies, was published in 2012.

Mantel also writes reviews and essays, mainly for the Guardian, London Review of Books and New York Review of Books. (From Wikipedia.)

*Commander of the British Empire



Book Reviews
Two years ago something astonishingly fair happened in the world of prestigious prizes: the Man Booker Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction for 2009 both went to the right winner…Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall…It was a hard act to follow. But the follow-up is equally sublime.…Bring Up the Bodies is beautifully constructed…it proves delightful to watch and anticipate how Ms. Mantel steers [all the characters] into and out of Cromwell's view, follows his canny assessments of how to play them off against one another and lays out the affronts for which they will later pay dearly…The wonder of Ms. Mantel's retelling is that she makes these events fresh and terrifying all over again.
Janet Maslin - New York Times


Bring Up the Bodies takes up exactly where Wolf Hall leaves off: its great magic is in making the worn-out story of Henry and his many wives seem fascinating and suspenseful again.... Bring Up the Bodies (the title refers to the four men executed for supposedly sleeping with Anne) isn’t nostalgic, exactly, but it’s astringent and purifying, stripping away the cobwebs and varnish of history...so that the English past comes to seem like something vivid, strange and brand new.
Charles McGrath - New York Times Book Review


[D]arkly magnificent…The pleasures of Bring Up the Bodies—and they are abundant, albeit severe—reside in Mantel's artistic mastery. She animates history with a political and psychological acuity equal to Tolstoy's in War and Peace (and she might have the edge on Count Leo in politics). Sardonic humor, particularly in scenes with not-nearly-as-dumb-as-she-seems Jane Seymour, leavens the ominous mood. Gruffly compassionate toward villains and victims alike, Mantel reveals their weaknesses and cruelties bundled up in a flawed humanity we share.
Wendy Smith - Washington Post



Discussion Questions
1. The novel starts off with a description of hawks soaring in the sky and swooping in to slaughter their prey. In the same manner, the novel closes off with an image of a fox attacking a hen coop. What is the significance of these animals and what do they symbolize?

2. How has Cromwell’s upbringing influenced him to become the shrewd and ambitious man that he is? What is the significance of Cromwell refusing to adopt the coat of arms belonging to a noble Cromwell family even as he widens the chasm between his father and himself? How does Cromwell view family and how is it different from his own experience growing up?

3. How is King Henry VIII described in the novel? Is he self-serving, or does he truly believe in the validity of his actions? Does he come over as a sympathetic character?

4. Katherine is accused by Cromwell of causing the split within the church, and of endangering her daughter Mary, by her stubborn resistance to the King’s wishes. Do you view Katherine as a relentless and self-indulgent queen or is she noble for staying true to her beliefs?

5. Cromwell believes that England “will keep spiraling backwards into the dirty past” unless blunders are forgotten and old quarrels ended. How does this belief influence his actions in trying to build a new England? Does the king help or hinder him in this urge for renewal? How far are Cromwell’s actions unselfish, and how far are they self-serving?

6. King Henry had fawned over all three women (Katherine, Anne, Jane) at one point in time. His past actions indicate that he loved his former wives, yet each affair proves temporary. How does Henry view love? Why do the women in the novel endeavor to wear the “poisoned ring?”

7. There is enormous power in a woman’s gaze. How do the women in this novel utilize their feminine wiles to their advantage? What effect do they have on men subject to their lure, and what does this tell you about women’s power over their male counterparts?

8. Birth and is a major conceit throughout the novel. As “nails give birth to nails,” are children the product of their parents? Consider the parent-child relationships in the novel. What influence do parents have on their progeny?

9. When the King is thought to be dead after a jousting accident, there is a sudden rush to claim the crown. Are the players idealists, attempting to realize their political and religious ideals for England, or are they simply interested in getting power for themselves?’

10. Anne Boleyn is accused of committing adultery and even incest. Could there be any truth in these accusations, or are they complete fabrications by her enemies? How does she change once she realizes she is in danger?’

11. Cromwell seems very protective of Wyatt and saves him from death, even though he is widely suspected of being one of Anne’s lovers. Why does Cromwell feel such a strong need to defend him when he vehemently accuses others of being the Queen’s bedfellows? What sets Wyatt apart from the other men portrayed in the novel? What have Wyatt and Cromwell in common?’

12. Does the novel make you reconsider your view of the Tudors?

13. The story concludes with Cromwell’s claim that there are no endings, only beginnings. The country now has a new queen and a new leading family. What does this mean for England’s future? What do you think Cromwell’s role will be in the new order?

14. The execution of Anne Boleyn is one of the most frightening moments in English history. Anne’s last words are scripted to appease the King. What do you think would have been Anne’s last words had there not been any consequences?
(Questions issued by publishers.)

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