Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
Published by: Henry Holt and Co.
Published on: May 8, 2012
Page Count: 432
Genre: Historical Fiction
My Reading Format: Audiobook purchased from Audible.com using a monthly credit
Audiobook Published by: Macmillan Audio
Narrator: Simon Vance
Audiobook Length: 14 hours 35 minutes
Available Formats: Hardcover, eBook, and Audiobook
Note: I am pleased to publish this book during Audiobook Week, hosted by Jen from Devourer of Books, as it is an example of why I love listening to and reviewing audiobooks.
Giveaway: Macmillan Audio has graciously offered a giveaway of this audiobook to one of my lucky readers. For a chance to win, simply leave a comment on this post before 11:59pm EST on Friday, July 6th. I’ll announce the winner on July 7th.
Henry VIII was the first great love of my book blogging career. I first fell for him through Philippa Gregory and then expanded my horizons to cover as much Tudor ground as I could. Eventually, I succumbed to Tudor burnout. Like Anne of Cleves and Katherine Parr, my reading life moved on without him. That was until Wolf Hall was published. When I read it, I loved Hilary Mantel’s novel for all of its complexity in style and richness in character. I will never forget how she made me like Thomas Cromwell. To me, this was and still is somewhat miraculous. I don’t think there was another Tudor era figure I despised more, with the possible exception of Norfolk. This isn’t to say that Wolf Hall was an easy read. I invested quite a bit of time with it, getting to know and appreciate Mantel’s structure. I was happily prepared to devote that same time and care to the next novel in the series.
I think it’s safe to say that my secong great love of my blogging career has been Simon Vance. If you took a look at my blog’s history post The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, you’ll find at first a small shift and then a sizemic shift into the world of audiobooks. Certainly I’ve listened to and reviewed many of Simon Vance’s titles, but it has gone well beyond that. Unlike with Henry and Tudor England, I’ve not once felt even a touch of burnout. So, when I saw the seemingly innocent tweet from Macmillan Audio announcing that Simon Vance would be narrating Bring Up the Bodies, the second installment in Mantel’s Tudor series, I nearly passed out from delight. Henry and Simon together? Sweet Pete in Heaven, what bliss. When I received an ARC in the mail, there really wasn’t that much of a decision to be made to wait on the audio.
Bring Up the Bodies begins with Anne Boleyn on the decline. She’s failed to give her husband an heir and the head strong nature that once charmed the king, now began to irritate him. When the king is not happy with his wife, of course there are those who rise up to use this to their advantage. There are also those who have to abruptly change course and find another avenue to favor. Thomas Cromwell does both. Instrumental in Anne’s rise to power, he, Cromwell, must find a way to gracefully make way for the mousy and perhaps even dimwitted Jane Seymour. Through loose lips he even discovers a means by which to avenge he death of his beloved Wolsey.
I am not sure if it was because of the difference in medium, Simon Vance’s expert narration, or having already read Wolf Hall, but I found Bring Up the Bodies a much easier read. This isn’t to say that I didn’t have to pay attention. I very much did, but I never hit a point while listening that I could no longer concentrate. Despite being nearly 18 months since I’d read Wolf Hall, I saw how Mantel wove in the themes of the first novel and brought her unique style into the second queen’s fall from grace. The connection between the two books felt seamless.
Bring Up the Bodies is the first Tudor novel I’ve listened to in audio. It was a treat to have Simon Vance be the first to give voice to Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. This may be treason, but they were not the highlights. Two minor characters and Thomas Cromwell himself stole the show from the royal couple. Together, Mantel and Vance’s Lady Rochford, ever the catty bitch, was delectable. I savored the way Vance brought her to life during her audience with Cromwell. Henry’s basturd son, the Duke of Richmond, also makes a brief, but memorable appearance. The tone and the genuine uncertainty Simon Vance brought to the Duke’s character was hilarious. Given how subtly that scene was written, I’m not entirely sure it would have had the same impact on me in print. As the main character through whom we see the events unfold, it was important that any narrator understand Thomas Cromwell and his motivations. His portrayal was strong throughout, and, as Cromwell ticked off the four paws from the unforgettable masque about Wolsey, it was chillingly apparent that Simon Vance knew his man.
I absolutely adored Bring Up the Bodies. Mantel’s unique writing style and take on Henry VIII’s reign has reinvigorated my interest in Tudor England. I enjoyed this book and Simon Vance’s narration from start to finish. It is my hope to find Bring Up the Bodies an Audie Nominee in 2013 and that Macmilan Audio will carry this casting through to Cromwell’s demise in the last book.