Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Bring Up The Bodies, Hilary Mantel

this is historical fiction at its very best.  The story, we know.  She is telling the story of the life and work of Thomas Cromwell, Master Secretary to Henry VIII, and this book tells the last three weeks or so of the life of Anne Boleyn, with references to earlier times.  We know the ending (and Anne has long been a hero to me) but the story still is gripping.
The notions are contemporary: "This is about, which will you have: Henry Tudor or Alessandro Farnese? The King of England at Whitehall, or some fantastically corrupt foreigner in the Vatican?"
German scholars speak "the many varieties of their tongue" - as they do today, and it was German scholars who were the Protestants that Henry was not.
Old England: "Did they pick the quinces?  It can't be long till we have frost.  I feel it in my bones."
Anne, indeed, is called "a bag of bones" and the book says judges herself more harshly than any others can.  When taken to the Tower she cries out that the lodgings are too good for her.  She has not after all, had a son for Henry.  Though the daughter she had for him lives to be the greatest monarch England has known.  Arguably.  And with red hair.
Those condemned long for life despite themselves: "you think you cannot keep breathing, but your ribcage has other ideas: rising and falling, emitting sighs.  You must thrive in spite of yourself, and so that you may do it God takes out your heart of flesh, and gives you a heart of stone."
Cromwell, in this book, says "they do not say she is innocent.  They are not able.  It may be that she is, but none of them will give his word on it."
"I have only a little neck", says Anne.  "It will be the work of a moment."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Two great monarchs - neither expected to succeed and both women. Elizabeth 1 and Victoria. Who said 'I will be good'.

And she was. Very, very good.

They both were.