Bring Up the Bodies won both the Man Booker prize and the Costa Book of the Year in 2012, and is the sequel to Wolf Hall, which itself carried off the Man Booker Prize in 2009. It continues the story of Thomas Cromwell, Secretary to King Henry VIII. Henry is tiring of Anne Boleyn and one of Anne’s ladies in waiting, Jane Seymour, has caught his eye. Thomas must find a way to free Henry to marry again or be destroyed as his former master, Cardinal Wolsey, was destroyed.
Historical fiction doesn’t get better than this. The language evokes the period without being archaic; the characters are of their time but of our time, too – we feel we know them. (Anne Boleyn? Calculatingly flirtatious, wanting men to adore her, and offended by any who don’t: wife of a friend of my husband.) It’s a fine balance, the literary equivalent of a high wire act, and Mantel doesn’t put a foot wrong.
Per the author’s note “Mr Secretary remains sleek, plump and densely inaccessible, like a choice plum in a Christmas pie, but I hope to continue my efforts to dig him out.” Yes, please, Hilary, more, more, more! Could we be heading for the first Booker hat-trick?
**** One of the Best Books I’ve read this year