June's Book: Bring Up the Bodies, by Hilary Mantel

Monday, June 24, 2013

Hilary Mantel joins us for the Leonard Lopate Show Book Club to talk about Bring Up the Bodies, which won the 2012 Man Booker Prize. It’s the second book in her series following Thomas Cromwell, set Henry VIII’s England. It picks up where Wolf Hall left off, and it traces the downfall of King Henry’s second wife, Anne Boleyn, who failed to give him a son. Start with Wolf Hall (winner of the 2009 Man Booker Prize), which tells the story of Henry VIII’s split from the Catholic Church and his split from his first wife to marry Anne Boleyn. The books have been called “stunning,” “dazzling,” and “the finest works of historical fiction in contemporary literature.” Pick them up now and immerse yourself in the politics and palace intrigue of Tudor England!

Comments [28]

gina ballinger from graz, austia

i was constantly going to the computer to look at the map! hope the publishers add a map, too!

Jun. 26 2013 05:07 AM
Eddie Malraux from NYC

Religion and the Decline of Magic

Jun. 25 2013 04:31 PM
Deb from New York

what is the name of the book Hillary recommended again?
Something about the religion and disappearing of magic by a historian...
I can't seem to find it online

Jun. 24 2013 02:04 PM
Steve from Hell's Kitchen

Regarding my question about her use of pronouns, I found this useful discussion in Jane Hu's review of Bring Up the Bodies in LA Review of Books:

When Mantel discusses her creative process, one gets the sense that writing, too, is a process of becoming. What was originally to be one book on Thomas Cromwell quickly became two, then three. As the author says: “I did not know what I would find when I began. That is the only reason I could do it, because I was surprised at every turn.” Mantel expresses this surprise in the very form of her sentences, which constantly disorient the reader as subjects and objects swirl in restless interchangeability:

"It can’t be a first person narrative, but it’s not as detached as third person. And I felt that since I’m behind his eyes, I can’t really start calling him Thomas Cromwell, as if I’m across the room and able to point at him. So I evolved this other way of doing it, which has now become a kind of trademark of the book. I’m very conscious that some readers found it hard to get used to. Once you work out that “he” is Thomas Cromwell, unless you’re told different, from then on it should work for you. It’s a risk, I know, but it seemed a worthwhile risk to me."

The effect is a dizzying reminder that even when we think we know where we are, one pronoun can shift the terms of our experience entirely. This relay between Mantel, her narrators, and readers also critiques the assumption that the past exists in a static universality. History can only be told by somebody and for somebody.

Jun. 24 2013 01:05 PM
Jeneba from BK

I was so thoroughly captivated by the interview, that I rushed to Amazon to look it up.... How disappointing! The style of writing is so simplistic that it reminded me of the Nancy Drew books I grew up reading... These books won WHICH prize????

Jun. 24 2013 01:02 PM

ditto - I am enjoying this guest as well

Jun. 24 2013 12:57 PM
Charles Imbimbo from Teaneck

Ms. Mantel is so enchanting! Just listening to her speak makes me want to read her books. Great guest!

Jun. 24 2013 12:52 PM
Steve from Hell's Kitchen

Your use of pronouns in Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies is often very ambiguous and confusing. I've learned that the otherwise unadorned "he" is usually Cromwell, but it is often engaged with other "he"s and "she"s that require several reads to understand who is who. You are an extraordinarily crafty writer, so I know this obfuscation must serve some purpose. Can you say what it is.

thank you, for many hours of reading pleasure!

Jun. 24 2013 12:51 PM
leanne from manhattan

After I read the books I went to the Frick to see the Holbein portraits of More & Cromwell, the book & the paintings together make me feel like I really know this person. I loved the part in the first book about the portraint when Cromwell says that Holbein makes him "look like a murdcerer" and his stepson says "didn't you know?"

Jun. 24 2013 12:50 PM
Tisha from NJ

If that woman who just called with the "undressing" comment is not the same as the judge on (Food Network's) Chopped, then they are relatives. (My ear doesn't lie.)

Jun. 24 2013 12:49 PM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

It is pure pleasure to listen to this guest! I just love how she expresses herself, including her voice & diction.

Jun. 24 2013 12:42 PM
Lorin from park slope

thank goodness for wikipedia and my droid while reading both of these two wonderful books!

Jun. 24 2013 12:38 PM
Margaret Fell from Queens, NY

While I truly loved both books, I thought that there was a certain oddity in the attitudes towards Thomas More vs. Thomas Cromwell. Never mind that More's wit and humanity-- yes, he had some-- are not admitted. We are led to detest More because he wants people executed for reasons of faith. We are led to sympathise with Cromwell when he has people executed for reasons of state. What fine point of morality am I missing here?

Jun. 24 2013 11:04 AM
Rita from New Rochelle from New Rochelle

Without the charts at the beginning of the books I would have been lost - a map would also be helpful!!!!

Jun. 22 2013 02:42 PM
trev greene from Bronx, NY

There is a wonderful interview with HM on the Haye-on -Wye festival website.
She indicates that the third volume will be called "The mirror and the light" and would would make for a symmetrical trilogy with similar bookends, beginning with Cromwell lying on the ground bloodied by his father, and ending with him on the scaffold bloodied by the king.
Loved both volumes, once I learned to navigate the dialog attribution...

Jun. 22 2013 12:41 PM
Tom from NY

I've very much enjoyed your novels and have read that you've had some health issues. How is your health? You have not traveled to the U.S. in many years. Does your health prevent you from traveling? If not, when will you be visiting the U.S. again for a public event? Thank you and best wishes.

Jun. 21 2013 01:47 PM
Elsa Rubenstein from Briarcliff Manor, NY

My husband and I read both books and were enthralled by their immediacy and the extraordinary writing. I also listened to Wolfe Hall being exquisitely read through Hungry for more Mantel, I read Beyond Black (which I found at a book sale) and discovered some of the same themes developed in the Cromwell books. My main question is: When will we see the third book? Nothing else satisfies.

Jun. 18 2013 09:48 AM
Emily W. from cobble hill, brooklyn

I'm a huge fan of both novels, and also of the show The Tudors. I'd love to know whether Ms. Mantel has watched The Tudors and what she thinks of the show. I know it took a lot of liberties, and I'm not just talking about Henry VIII's ripped abs.

Jun. 17 2013 01:44 PM
Judy ROHER from White Plains, NY

Originally Hilary Mantel was scheduled to be onLeonard Lopate show on 6/10 and now it is to be on 6/17. May I ask why the change ? Than k you.

Jun. 10 2013 12:40 PM

I loved both books and (much as I hate to be on the bandwagon) agree whole-heartedly with the praise Mantel has received for invigorating the "historical fiction" genre. I love the Tudor period, but have read/seen too many awful retellings of those plots and characters. Mantel's choice of Cromwell as her protagonist and POV is inspired and permits her to bare truths about the era, the people and their motivations that wring true with me as a reader and lapsed historian. Can't wait for her next volume.

Jun. 04 2013 12:17 PM
Catherine from Chicago

I first read "Wolf Hall" then "Bring Up the Bodies". I'm looking forward to reading Mantel’s final novel of the trilogy. In "Bring Up the Bodies", Cromwell’s mind gives a keen and observant look at Henry VIII’s court and, of course, Cromwell himself. What a way to tell this history: from court intrigue to Holbein and court portraits, architecture, fashion and status, export and trade; the list goes on. Remarkable.

Jun. 02 2013 07:13 PM
an clerckx from switzerland

I wanted to comment that I hope HM will write her third book in a way that he does not have to die. I have come to like Cromwell and have build so much trust in him I would hate to be so close when he goes down. Just to emphasise that it is still fiction. And to surprise, let him escape and grow old on the amalfi coast with his grand children.

May. 31 2013 03:39 PM
Katie from Brooklyn

I would love to know about Mantel's research process for these books, especially how she was able to know enough and feel close enough to Cromwell to write from inside his brain and relay such (ostensibly) deep thoughts. As someone who never showed his feelings, it allows for a fantastic experience as a reader - to be on the inside. I'm a big fan, looking forward to this!

May. 23 2013 06:05 PM
Jeb from Williamsburg

In the first two novels of the series I was struck by the ways in which the afterlife and the supernatural intertwined with the every day consciousness of the characters, particularly Thomas Cromwell's.

Can you discuss how this sense of the 'everyday spiritualism' and the pre-Christian pagan legends of England shaped the worldviews of your characters?

May. 23 2013 12:27 PM
Sarah from NY'er in CT

Both "Wolf Hall" and "Bring Up the Bodies" are fun, if slightly confusing on the first read, beautiful on the second and spectacular on the third. Mantel's talent for drawing a full and complex character in even fleeting prose astounds me. Think of "Liz" and her daughters by way of example. I'm looking forward to the third, but in the meanwhile I continue to find new beauty and insight each time I return to WH and BUTB.

May. 09 2013 01:19 PM
Izzy from Ireland

I really enjoyed both Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies and can't wait to read the next one in this trilogy. Cromwell is a brilliant character and Mantel creates such a believable world. I particularly like the dark Anne Boleyn in Bring up the Bodies. If anyone is interested, my full review of Bring up the Bodies is on my blog,

Apr. 29 2013 04:47 PM
Frank Chirico

This book has several interesting suggestions about England's religious history at the time (largely shaped by powerful, worldly individuals). However, what struck me most was the character of Cromwell--specifically his sarcastic wit, which left me feeling he was a New Yorker!

Apr. 23 2013 06:01 AM
Demi Kristy from Astoria, NY

I've read both of the novels and although I enjoyed them and found the writing beautiful, there were times when I had to figure out which character was speaking. A friend of mine had the same experience. Also, Thomas Cromwell is so wonderful in them. Hilary Mantel succeeded in changing my former opinion of him.

Apr. 22 2013 09:46 PM

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