I have to keep dragging myself back to the here and now, so immersed am I in the Wolf Hall sequel, Bring up the bodies. I am reading it slowly, only a third of the way through because I think it's better not to gulp at such a fine book - it's like a multi-course fine-dining banquet, not fast food on the run.
A couple of observations so far ( will possibly only make sense to you if you've read the first book):
- We are seeing glimpses of the sheer ruthlessness of Thomas Cromwell which was not as evident in the first book. His black humour around the imprisonment of Thomas More, for example. He has already assessed that Anne Boleyn is losing favour, and like he's playing a chess game, is already positioning Jane Seymour and the Seymour family within the court. He makes Jane available for the King, like a tempting chocolate in a box.
- The snake pit of the royal court fascinates. No-one can be trusted and nearly everyone can be bought.The struggles for favour and power and the false friendships contrast with the harmonious atmosphere of Cromwell's large household at Austin Friars. The house below is not Austin Friars but another of Cromwell's residences. (Thank you to an anonymous commenter who clarified this).
- I admire the stunning ability of Hilary Mantel to put you in the scene - as you're reading you feel as if you too are being ticked off by Anne Boleyn; dismounting from your horse at an inn; visiting the divorced Queen Katherine at Kimbolton Castle while the Spanish servants whisper about you...
- Once again, I'm completely fascinated/appalled by Anne Boleyn and her misreading of the situation she's in. I can't help but wonder what would have happened if she'd consented to a divorce or annulment instead of hanging on until (literally) grim death...
- When we were in the UK two years ago, on chilly New Year's day, husband and I went for a walk from our apartment to Lincoln's Inn Fields, scene of executions in Tudor times, around the square, down High Holborn Road and up Chancery Lane to Fleet Street and back again. It was a dark afternoon, the streets were empty and you could feel the history all around.
These places felt quite eerie and haunted to me. Much grim history associated with them. I would not like to stand in Lincoln's Inn Fields at midnight. Haunted, for sure.
So these are just a few initial impressions, my streams-of-conciousness about the book. I am loving it, as I knew I would.The picture below is of Wolf Hall in 1907.
images: from here, here and here.