One of my top picks for 2012. This book is truly amazing, more amazing than its predecessor, Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel continues the saga of the work of Thomas Cromwell as Henry VIII decides he has had enough of Anne Boleyn's theatrics, hysteria, and miscarriages. She must be a witch.
Besides, there is the quiet and demure Jane Seymour, who has now caught his eye. How to sweep Anne not only out of the queenship, but also out of his life when he struggled so mightily to make her his? She is not good to him, now that she is older, "stick and bones," and seemingly unable to bear him a son.
The machinations of the English court come vividly to life in "Bring in the Bodies." I feel as if I lived these weeks in the palace with Cromwell as Mantel tells the story of what Cromwell must accomplish for the King. In an almost stream-of-consciousness style for the portions of the Cromwell narration, Mantel puts us inside Cromwell's legal mind, always strategizing, always remembering his butcher's son status among the gentry.
No love is lost between Anne and Cromwell. Each has an agenda to please the King, Anne's the more difficult since it is physical. Thomas puts his personal feelings on hold, whirls into lawyer mode, and dispatches the "guilty," with targeted inquisitions. As he notes, they never laid a hand on Mark Smeaton, the musician. They didn't need to.
This book is a challenging read, far more so than other books about Anne Boleyn, and yet, it is also more satisfying as we see the Queen at her prideful worst and her hopeful best. She was but a foolish, self-indulgent girl, who literally lost her head for a King of monomaniacal needs, desires, and expectations.
Bring in the Bodies, even the title has literary resonance as the book comes to a close. It is worth a reader's time to follow the elaborate changes of pace, character, and diction, as people come and go from Henry's favor and the temporal life.