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Bring up the Bodies – and do pay attention, please

October 17, 2012

Hilary Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell novels seem to divide readers into those who think they’re absolutely wonderful and those who… don’t. As a member of the former camp I’m delighted that she’s won the Booker again. I have to admit, though, that I’ve never actually “read” either WOLF HALL or BRING UP THE BODIES. Instead I’ve enjoyed having them read to me while I’ve been busy doing other things.

The ‘other things’  have to be chosen with care. I once tried a long-distance drive in the company of Ian Rankin’s THE COMPLAINTS, and while the book was great, the  resultant speeding ticket wasn’t.  So now I reserve audiobooks for repetitive tasks not involving dangerous machinery. Thomas Cromwell has unwittingly helped to clear many piles of dirty dishes, and there’s a patch of garden at Downie Towers that I shall forever associate with the terror of young Mark Smeaton in much the same way as many of us can remember where we were when Kennedy was shot.

That, I think, is the sign of a good book.

 

8 comments

  1. Simon Vance will help you plant spring bulbs. (He IS Ruso to me! I just hope he continues to be, in your next book…)

    Laurie Atwater


    • So do I, Laurie! No news yet.


  2. I’ve been wanting to read both Cromwell books. Thanks for jogging my memory, Ruth!


    • I hope you enjoy them, Leah – tho’ it appears from Patrick’s comment below that if you were hoping to get them from the library, you may have a bit of a wait!


  3. In Robert Bolt’s play “A Man For All Seasons” Cromwell was played with despicable acuity by Leo McKern under Fred Zinnemann’s direction in the 1966 film. Left me wondering who could like stories about such a “serviceable villain?” Apparently, a whole lotta people. Another good sign of a good book? Can’t be found “on the shelf/ checked out” in over 40 libraries in Chicago area.

    “More is a man of an angel’s wit and singular learning. I know not his fellow. For where is the man of that gentleness, lowliness and affability? And, as time requireth, a man of marvelous mirth and pastimes, and sometime of as sad gravity. A man for all seasons.”
    ~Robert Whittington~

    Perhaps by one’s reading of Mantel’s novels one may see Cromwell in a different light and find out in which “camp” your loyalties lie. Also, it’s the way the author puts the story together. Davis,Saylor,Roberts and of course your own Medicus series all
    tell the tale from differing points of view. Though I have to say, your series has more humorous segments which to me make it the most enjoyable of all these series. Case in point, when Ruso sends the overbearing Centurion off to the barber named “hasty.” Loved it!


    • That’s a wonderful quote from Whittington, Patrick. I think one of the strengths of Mantel’s work is that we see Cromwell not as a snarling villain but as a man wearily carrying out some idea of duty while surrounded by people who are prepared to use him for their own ends. (I have to admit that in the past I’ve always been more of a Thomas More person myself.) Good luck with tracking down a library copy!


  4. I’ve just discovered your wonderful books… and I listen to all of my books, my eyes don’t read regular print as well as I’d like, however, you are my constant companion through dishes, laundry, and holiday knitting! Thank you!


    • Thank you Michelle! As you’ll have gathered, I’m a huge fan of audiobooks and it’s lovely to know that Ruso and Tilla are helping to keep you entertained through the housework!



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