Review: Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel

At first, I tried to read Bring Up the Bodies on the side, while plowing through some easier reading as well. It was impossible. Every time I picked up Bring Up the Bodies I'd have to re-adjust to the language, its density and cadence. It is unlike anything else and, at first contact, kept bouncing me away. 

So I set aside everything else and was finally able to sink right in. The language is breathtaking. Muscular, aggressive, a little jerky--I want to say there's a sort of shaky-cam effect in the POV that keeps you from ever feeling quite settled--and it's the kind of English I like most, knotty and hard, that sort of feels like talking through a mouthful of pebbles. Let me tell you, you can't achieve that effect in French. 

I don't know much about the historical figures or the period, so I can't really comment on Mantel's take. I found Cromwell incredibly likable. Henry VIII downright monstrous. Anne Boleyn--cleverer and more in control of her situation than I had expected, since I've only ever thought of her as a victim until now. Mantel makes her seem like someone who played the Game of Thrones (win or die!) & came in second place.

Here are some favorite quotes: 

"The light shivers, then settles against dark wood like discs pared from a pearl." 

"What is the nature of the border between truth and lies? It is permeable and blurred because it is planted thick with rumour, confabulation, misunderstandings and twisted tales. Truth can break the gates down, truth can howl in the street; unless truth is pleasing, personable and easy to like, she is condemned to stay whimpering at the back door." 

"You can be merry with the king, you can share a joke with him. But as Thomas More used to say, its like sporting with a tamed lion. You tousle its mane and pull its ears, but all the time you're thinking, those claws, those claws, those claws." 

(This is the one that stuck with me most--I repeat it in my head like a little chant--"those claws, those claws, those claws".)

And the last line is a doozy: "The word 'however' is like an imp coiled beneath your chair. It induces ink to form words you have not yet seen, and lines to march across the page and overshoot the margin. There are no endings. If you think so you are deceived as to their nature. They are all beginnings. Here is one."