Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Tudor Psychological Chills


I read Hilary Mantel's new novel, Bring Up the Bodies: A Novel last week as well, about Thomas Cromwell and the fall of Anne Boleyn in sixteenth century England. The successor to her Booker-Prize -winning Wolf Hall: A Novel, it is a chilling evocation of politics and court psychology around Henry the Eighth in the mid-1530s.

I greatly enjoyed it, even if I had to take breaks from confronting the conniving fractiousness and cruelty of humanity in the book. It is absorbing and evocative, although not quite as rewarding as Wolf Hall. Cromwell is established and powerful. It is less intrinsically interesting and dramatic than the story of this rise to the top.


Nor is Anne Boleyn a particularly interesting or attractive character. Instead, the chief angle is the dreadful spectacle of how someone like Anne can fall so quickly and terribly. Just three years after her triumphant marriage, she is beheaded in 1536 by a French swordsman on a platform in the Tower of London.


The history is familiar. But Mantel brings it alive with vividness and insight.


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