(2012) #27 review: Bring Up The Bodies

Bring Up the Bodies

by

Hilary MANTEL

Narrated by Simon VANCE

14:35 hours

Published by Macmillan Audio in May 2012

I received this book for review from Macmillan Audio via Audiobook Jukebox

This book counts for the following Reading Challenges:

   

MY THOUGHTS ABOUT THIS BOOK

I listened to Wolf Hall last year and enjoyed it very much. So no need to tell I was really thrilled to receive Bring Up The Bodies for free to review! Thanks again Macmillan and Audiobook Jukebox.

A word first on the narration.

I had enjoyed a lot the voice of the narrator Simon Slater in Wolf Hall, so I was a bit hesitating, seeing that they had chosen a different narrator for the sequel Bring Up The Bodies. If you have experience with audiobooks for a series, you may have your ear accustomed to associate one character with one voice.

After my first dislike on the change, I realized how excellent Simon Vance. He’s so stunning at changing his voice for each character. There are lots of dialogs in this book, with several characters involved, and it is really incredible how the narrator can so quickly switch from one to the other, with a different voice, different tone, different accent sometimes – though I have to say I preferred how Simon Slater had represented the voice of Anne Boleyn and the French ambassador, but these are strictly personal preferences.

In Wolf Hall, the author had chosen to designate Thomas Cromwell many times with the simple personal pronoun HE. She had received several criticisms for that, as some readers thought it was ambiguous and unclear in some passages. I have to say I never had any problem with that, maybe because I listened to it. Anyway, Mantel listened to the critiques, and  in this book many times she specified “He Cromwell.” I found this annoying, maybe particularly because of the audio format. I tell you, you can never please all your readers/listeners!

Apart from that, the book is brilliant. It is fascinating to see the evolution between both books: in the first one, Cromwell appears almost like a hero, victim of violence by his father, having had to fend for himself, and done very well at that, suffering the sorrow of losing his wife and many children to the plague – and Thomas More sounding as a total jerk, not at all as the saint canonized by the Church.

Well, here things are getting quite more shady. He is very rich, with lots of connection. How does he use these connections? Why does he prefer some people to others? Can he consider the political issues of this country apart from his own personal interests? He looks very calculating, all the time, very cynical as well, going from beginnings to new beginnings that will either benefit him or at least save his head. Is he only inspired by his contemporary Machiavelli (1469-1527)?

The book ends with the execution of Anne Boleyn – if you know your British history, this is no spoiler. The whole affair is presented in such a way that the responsibility of her death seems very much the fact of two persons, Henry and “he Cromwell,” maybe even more Cromwell, as you see him thinking about possible reasons to offer for her condemnation. Without Cromwell black ingenuity, would Henry have sent her to a convent instead? Sometimes I wonder.

I love Mantel’s writing: it’s very tight, not one extra word, words very well chosen. I enjoy the way she translated Cromwell’s cynicism and black cold humor at times.

I can’t wait to see now how Mantel is going to portrait Cromwell’s own fall.

If you like a good historical novel, extremely well researched and written, you have to read this book. But maybe first read Wolf Hall.

WHAT IS IT ABOUT

The sequel to Hilary Mantel’s 2009 Man Booker Prize winner and New York Times bestseller, Wolf Hall delves into the heart of Tudor history with the downfall of Anne Boleyn

Though he battled for seven years to marry her, Henry is disenchanted with Anne Boleyn. She has failed to give him a son and her sharp intelligence and audacious will alienate his old friends and the noble families of England. When the discarded Katherine dies in exile from the court, Anne stands starkly exposed, the focus of gossip and malice.

At a word from Henry, Thomas Cromwell is ready to bring her down. Over three terrifying weeks, Anne is ensnared in a web of conspiracy, while the demure Jane Seymour stands waiting her turn for the poisoned wedding ring. But Anne and her powerful family will not yield without a ferocious struggle. Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies follows the dramatic trial of the queen and her suitors for adultery and treason. To defeat the Boleyns, Cromwell must ally with his natural enemies, the papist aristocracy. What price will he pay for Anne’s head? [Goodreads]

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Hilary Mantel was born in Glossop, Derbyshire, England on 6 July 1952. She studied Law at the London School of Economics and Sheffield University. She was employed as a social worker, and lived in Botswana for five years, followed by four years in Saudi Arabia, before returning to Britain in the mid-1980s. In 1987 she was awarded the Shiva Naipaul Memorial Prize for an article about Jeddah, and she was film critic for The Spectator from 1987 to 1991.

Her novels include Eight Months on Ghazzah Street (1988), set in Jeddah; Fludd (1989), set in a mill village in the north of England and winner of the Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize, the Cheltenham Prize and the Southern Arts Literature Prize; A Place of Greater Safety (1992), an epic account of the events of the French revolution that won the Sunday Express Book of the Year award; A Change of Climate (1994), the story of a missionary couple whose lives are torn apart by the loss of their child; and An Experiment in Love (1995), about the events in the lives of three schoolfriends from the north of England who arrive at London University in 1970, winner of the 1996 Hawthornden Prize.

Her recent novel The Giant, O’Brien (1998) tells the story of Charles O’Brien who leaves his home in Ireland to make his fortune as a sideshow attraction in London. Her latest books are Giving Up the Ghost: A Memoir (2003), an autobiography in fiction and non-fiction, taking the reader from early childhood through to the discoveries in adulthood that led her to writing; and Learning to Talk: Short Stories (2003).

Hilary Mantel’s novel Beyond Black (2005) tells the story of Alison, a Home Counties psychic, and her assistant, Colette. It was shortlisted for a 2006 Commonwealth Writers Prize and for the 2006 Orange Prize for Fiction. Her latest novel Wolf Hall (2009) won the 2009 Man Booker Prize for Fiction.

You can find lots of good material on Macmillan website: Hilary Mantel presenting the book herself, and a good reading guide.

And another blogger, A Writer Of History, has an excellent interview of the author.

REVIEWS BY OTHER BLOGGERS
S. Krishna’s Books
Biblibio

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Review #63: Wolf Hall

Wolf Hall

by

Hilary MANTEL

Narrator:  Simon Slater
24 h, 19 m
Published by Macmillan Audio, 2009

This books counts for

2011 Audio Book Challenge

MY THOUGHTS ABOUT THIS BOOK

I have heard a lot about this book, by other bloggers and friends, and I am glad I finally took time to listen to it – over 24 hours, but every minute was worth it.

As many readers have already said before me, it is stunning how the author manages to give a picture of the main characters so different from what history text books or even movies convey. If I ask you which of the 2 historical figures you dislike most, chances are you will choose Cromwell over Thomas More.

But this is all a question of perspective. The book begins with a violent scene where Cromwell as a boy is savagely beaten by his own father. Through his hard work, and amidst constant inner suffering related to his youth, and his wife and children he lost because of the plague, he manages to reach the highest office in the country after the King.

More positively, he is described having lots of affection and compassion for members of his household and young people he protected and helped in life. Never heard about any of that in history classes!

I could not even but feel compassion myself for him at the end when he experiences conscience pangs after More’s execution.

To get to Thomas More now, the picture is far from the portrait of the martyr I was used to. And here the narrator is fantastic in supporting the author’s perspective: the tome of voice he uses when he narrates More is full of contempt, and More appears really as a repulsive character. In the whole book, the narrator was excellent at sticking to the author’s point, just by modulating his tone of voice, and of course accents as well, for instance for the French ambassador.

The book may have been more difficult for me in its written form, but I found it so lively in its audio form, thanks to its great narrator.

It is really a pleasure to rediscover history, and to see that things were not always as black and white as they were presented to me at school. Now I have heard that a sequel is coming. I will not wait for 2 years to read it for sure.

If you would like to refresh your history about the beginning of the schism with  Henry VIII, Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn, this book  is for you.

I invite you to read my review of volume 2: Bring Up The Bodies

WHAT IS IT ABOUT

“Lock Cromwell in a deep dungeon in the morning,” says Thomas More, “and when you come back that night he’ll be sitting on a plush cushion eating larks’ tongues, and all the gaolers will owe him money.”

England, the 1520s. Henry VIII is on the throne, but has no heir. Cardinal Wolsey is his chief advisor, charged with securing the divorce the Pope refuses to grant. Into this atmosphere of distrust and need comes Thomas Cromwell, first as Wolsey’s clerk, and later his successor. Cromwell is a wholly original man: the son of a brutal blacksmith, a political genius, a briber, a charmer, a bully, a man with a delicate and deadly expertise in manipulating people and events.

Ruthless in pursuit of his own interests, he is as ambitious in his wider politics as he is for himself. His reforming agenda is carried out in the grip of a self-interested parliament and a king who fluctuates between romantic passions and murderous rages.

From one of our finest living writers, Wolf Hall is that very rare thing: a truly great English novel, one that explores the intersection of individual psychology and wider politics. With a vast array of characters, and richly overflowing with incident, it peels back history to show us Tudor England as a half-made society, moulding itself with great passion and suffering and courage. [Goodreads]

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Hilary Mantel was born in Glossop, Derbyshire, England on 6 July 1952. She studied Law at the London School of Economics and Sheffield University. She was employed as a social worker, and lived in Botswana for five years, followed by four years in Saudi Arabia, before returning to Britain in the mid-1980s. In 1987 she was awarded the Shiva Naipaul Memorial Prize for an article about Jeddah, and she was film critic for The Spectator from 1987 to 1991.

Her novels include Eight Months on Ghazzah Street (1988), set in Jeddah; Fludd (1989), set in a mill village in the north of England and winner of the Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize, the Cheltenham Prize and the Southern Arts Literature Prize; A Place of Greater Safety (1992), an epic account of the events of the French revolution that won the Sunday Express Book of the Year award; A Change of Climate (1994), the story of a missionary couple whose lives are torn apart by the loss of their child; and An Experiment in Love (1995), about the events in the lives of three schoolfriends from the north of England who arrive at London University in 1970, winner of the 1996 Hawthornden Prize.

Her recent novel The Giant, O’Brien (1998) tells the story of Charles O’Brien who leaves his home in Ireland to make his fortune as a sideshow attraction in London. Her latest books are Giving Up the Ghost: A Memoir (2003), an autobiography in fiction and non-fiction, taking the reader from early childhood through to the discoveries in adulthood that led her to writing; and Learning to Talk: Short Stories (2003).

Hilary Mantel’s novel Beyond Black (2005) tells the story of Alison, a Home Counties psychic, and her assistant, Colette. It was shortlisted for a 2006 Commonwealth Writers Prize and for the 2006 Orange Prize for Fiction. Her latest novel Wolf Hall (2009) won the 2009 Man Booker Prize for Fiction. [Goodreads]

REVIEWS BY OTHERS

“The 2009 Man Booker Prize-winning novel about Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII’s fixer and counselor has been brilliantly served by English actor (and composer) Simon Slater. He gives an ironic, Machiavellian edge to his voice as general narrator and renders the myriad characters with exceptional virtuosity. This performance is the best of the year: an absolute triumph, further enhancing an already magnificent novel.”  – The Washington Post, Top Audio Books of ’09
“Set aside a full day to savor Simon Slater’s delightful reading of the Booker Prize-winning tale of Henry VIII’s court, seen through the eyes of his adviser Thomas Cromwell…Slater’s narration is nuanced and precise; he breathes feeling and subtle shades of emotion into every exchange of dialogue. His is a heroic undertaking, and he does admirable justice to Mantel’s lucid prose and juicy plot.” – Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
“Slater seems to inhabit Cromwell’s very soul, his voice imbued with urbane assurance, dark despair, calculating ambition, and sardonic wit. Each character rings true…Mantel’s masterpiece, winner of the Man Booker Prize for Fiction, 2009, entrances with a gripping immediacy that carries listeners to a cliff-hanger ending, leaving fans clamoring for a sequel.” –Booklist, Starred Review
“Simon Slater’s inspired narration of this year’s Booker Prize novel, set in the court of Henry VIII, is on every count one of this year’s outstanding audiobooks.” – AudioFile, Earphones Award Winner
“Read by Simon Slater in possibly the best performance of his career, Wolf Hall…never ceases to be gripping…the best audio book of the year.” – The Winston-Salem Journal

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GOOD BOOKS FOR YOUR WEEK-END 13-14/08

GOOD BOOKS FOR YOUR WEEK-END 

08/13-14/2011

 

This week has been here paradise like, as for the weather. I have spent glorious hours reading on my tiny porch, in the company Of birds coming to the feeders or to have a bath. If you are not sure what to take with you to enjoy this coming week, here are some suggestions for you, plus also as usual my list of current reads that you can see in the left menu, and if you click on the logo, you will access lots of other similar lists posted today by other bloggers:

FICTION

This Burns My Heart, by Samuel Park

David, by Mary Hoffman
have you ever wondered who was the person behind the famous statue of David?? Here is his possible life. Sometimes I wonder where authors find their ideas, I find this one rather smart and original

The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn , by Alison Weird
recommended by another blogger, (you should check his blog, he has great reviews), who was reading like me Wolf Hall. Sounds like a great writer and perspective

Madame Bovary’s Daughter, by Linda Urbach.
have you ever wondered what happened to Emma’s daughter?

Uncle Yanya,  by Anton Chekhov
if you don’t know this famous author, this play could be a good introduction for you

 

NON-FICTION

I’m Feeling Lucky, Douglas Edwards
on Google”s world

The Rose of Martinique: A Life of Napoleon’s Josephine, by Andrea Stuart

Woodswoman, by Anne LaBastille
abo0ut an incredible woman and her adventure sin nature

World Without Fish, by Mark Kurlansky
what could happen soon to our world

On Reading, by Marcel Proust and John Ruskin
I’m totally rediscovering Proust, in French, and loving him so much. This could be an interesting essay

I keep running into very interesting books on France and Paris, and I am thinking of introducting a meme on French books/culture. What do you think? Would you be interested?

PLEASE LET ME KNOW IN A COMMENT,
AND SHARE WHAT YOU WILL READ THIS WEEK-END