10.07.2012 - Hilary Mantel

On May 10th, Hilary Mantel presented the sequel to Wolf Hall: Bring up the Bodies. Two months later, in anticipation of its Dutch translation, she will visit us at BorderKitchen.

Wolf Hall was the fantastic, intriguing novel that won Hilary Mantel the Man Booker Prize in 2009. Its story is about Thomas Cromwell, long the right hand of Henry VIII. Cromwell has always remained a mysterious and controversial figure, unlike his rival, the utopist Thomas More. In Wolf Hall the roles are reversed; here, Cromwell has the nobler profile and More the narrow traits of a fanatic. The book ends with the beheading of More; in de preceding years Henry VIII has broken with Rome and created his own church. His first marriage has been annulled and the new woman at his side is called Anne Boleyn.

Then Bring up the Bodies starts. Henry’s actions have forced England into dangerous isolation, and Anne fails to bear a son to secure the Tudor line. Cromwell watches as Henry falls in love with yet another woman, Jane Seymour. He also sees what is at stake: not just the king’s pleasure, but the safety of the nation. As he eases a way through the sexual politics of the court, its miasma of gossip, he seeks for a solution that will satisfy Henry and secure his own career. That solution is the destruction of Anne Boleyn.  The facts about the Tudor dynasty are known to us, but how it all happened and what it shows us, that’s the fascinating territory of the historical novel, as is superbly demonstrated here by Hilary Mantel. And while Cromwell triumphs at the end of Bring up the Bodies, the reader knows that for Cromwell too the last episode is drawing near – something that will be addressed in the final book of Mantel’s trilogy.

Hilary Mantel is one of the great modern day writers. She is the author of eleven books, including A Place of Greater Safety, Giving Up the Ghost and Beyond Black. Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies show her at the height of her narrative powers. During BorderKitchen, she will be interviewed by journalist and literary critic Liddie Austin (Red).