Here we have the long anticipated culmination of Hilary Mantel’s Tudor trilogy and it was certainly worth the extended wait.
Most will probably be aware of the novel’s subject matter, picking up Thomas Cromwell’s story from the end of Bring Up The Bodies, which concluded with the execution of Anne Boleyn. This new work follows the final years of his life from 1536-40, chronicling his gradual fall from grace from arguably the second most powerful man in England to his untimely demise, ultimately suffering the same fate he had bestowed on enemies and rivals over the years. The skill of the author is to make this inevitable outcome to the story suspenseful, even though the ending is of course well known. Indeed, Cromwell’s fate seems to come almost as a surprise to himself, perhaps blinded by hubris, or maybe complacency eventually encouraged him to take just too many risks. Mantel manages to give us an insight into the inner man behind the public persona as the king’s right hand man, exposing his own self doubts and increasing loneliness as the years pass by. At the end of his story, we are left with the enigma and ambiguities of this complex influential character who came from such humble beginnings to go on to play a pivotal role in the Royal Court for so many years. Indeed, the Court itself and its day-to-day workings is painstakingly depicted and, as is so often the case, it is the minutiae that gives the reader some telling glimpses into its most fascinating aspects. For example, Henry owned over a hundred looking glasses, obsessively peering in to them, perhaps hoping to catch a glimpse of the handsome young prince he once was, rather than the bloated old man, desperate for a male heir, that he had become. At almost a thousand pages, this is certainly an epic read, but the pages fly by as you become engrossed by the people and events of the time.
A truly masterful achievement, and a very fitting climax to the tale that began in Wolf Hall.
Length of Read:Epic
Might appeal to people who enjoyed…
The previous two books in this series, historical fiction, superbly crafted writing.
One thing you’ve learned
Book of the year without any question!