• Bring Up the Bodies

  • A Novel
  • By: Hilary Mantel
  • Narrated by: Ben Miles
  • Length: 16 hrs and 22 mins
  • 4.8 out of 5 stars (279 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

2012 Washington Post Best Books of the Year
2012 Cleveland Plain Dealer's Best Books of the Year
2012 NPR Best Book of the Year
2012 Publishers Weekly Best Books of the Year
2012 USA Today Best Books of the Year
2012 New Yorker Best Books of the Year
2012 Entertainment Weekly Best Books of the Year
2013 Women's Prize for Fiction - Shortlist
2012 Costa Book Award - Winner
2012 New York Times Book Review Notable Books of the Year
2012 Man Booker Award - Winner
2012 Time Magazine Top 10 Books of the Year
2012 The Independent (UK) Best Books of the Year
2013 Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction Shortlist
2012 Kirkus Reviews Best Books of the Year
2013 Audie Award Winner
2012 Time Magazine Best Books of the Year

This program is read by Ben Miles, who played Thomas Cromwell in the Royal Shakespeare Company adaptation of Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies.

Winner of the 2012 Man Booker Prize

The sequel to Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel's 2009 Man Booker Prize winner and New York Times best seller, Bring Up the Bodies 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?

Bring Up the Bodies is one of The New York Times' 10 Best Books of 2012, one of Publishers Weekly's Top 10 Best Books of 2012, and one of The Washington Post's 10 Best Books of 2012.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

©2012 Hilary Mantel (P)2020 Macmillan Audio

What listeners say about Bring Up the Bodies

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Ben is a great narrator

I really enjoyed this second book. Narration and the story are really compelling. Like I said in the previous book review Bens style sounds perfect for a novel with so much dialogue. Easy to listen to. Well done!

6 people found this helpful

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Repetitive

This book has no substance. Within the first 10 minutes she repeats the definition of bulimia at least four times. I stopped listening. I didn't want to waste anymore time.

1 person found this helpful

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Brilliant book, brilliant narration

Read and marveled over Wolf Hall and Bringing up the Bodies. Wasn’t sure how I’d like them as audio books. I loved them! The narrator brought the engrossing story, amazing writing and superb characterization to life. Highly recommended.

1 person found this helpful

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Fascinating, Suspenseful, & Beautiful, but Tawdry

Hillary Mantel’s Bring up the Bodies (2012) starts just after Wolf Hall (2009) ends. Thomas More has been executed, Henry has been divorced from Katherine and married to Anne Boleyn for three years, but they only have one child, Elizabeth, and the aging Henry is falling in love with Jane Seymour, the quiet, shy antidote to proud, prickly Anne. The royal progress of the King and his servants, hangers on, and friends has reached Wolf Hall, home of the Seymours, with whom they hunt, hawk, talk, and eat and drink. One young lord, Weston, is with stunning stupidity openly insulting to Thomas Cromwell.

Cromwell at fifty is working indefatigably for Henry and England as Master Secretary, Master of the Rolls, Chancellor of Cambridge University, and has his hand in everything else, displaying all of his many talents and qualities: wit, tact, patience, memory, strategy, secrecy, poker face, ruthlessness, sympathy for the poor, and love for his family. He’ll one moment hire into his house a toothless vagabond who claims he was a jester for a lord who got blown up and the next moment tell a ward that when diplomacy fails, you’d better get your axe out while your enemy is still abed. It has been rumored that he was interested in remarrying to Jane Seymour, but as he observes his king falling in love with her, he morphs into a Pandarus-Machiavelli. He, Cromwell, is not without axes to grind for anyone guilty of cruel and callous treatment to his revered former master Cardinal Wolsey when he fell from favor. Cromwell indeed has a long and perfect memory. During high stakes discussions and decisions involving the Holy Roman Emperor, the Pope, the King of France, Henry’s daughter by Katherine Mary, the supposed lovers of Anne Boleyn, and so on, he, Cromwell, often departs the present to revisit the past about things like his beloved deceased wife and daughters, his violent father, his first and last foray into a military career, and his start in the world of Italian banking.

Hillary Mantel works into her narrative many details on the international and national historical and cultural situations: Henry feeling insecure on his throne because of lurking Plantagenents and hostile Pope and Emperor; Cromwell working on ways to transfer the money and power of the monasteries to the crown; Moscovites invading Poland (!); etc. Also, plenty of historical details about life in 16th-century England and Europe: festivals, foods, religion, books, monasteries, jousting, clothes, etc. Plenty of themes about life and death and gender, too. And she writes splendid prose:

“Just in time to frown at this, Sir Nicholas Carew has made an entrance. He does not come into a room like lesser men, but rolls in like a siege engine or some formidable hurling device, and now halting before Cromwell, he looks as if he wishes to bombard him.”

“A statute is written to entrap meaning, a poem to escape it. A quill sharpened can stir and rustle like the pinions of angels.”

“If dogs could smell out treason, Rich would be a blood hound, that prince among trufflers.”

“You should not desire, he knows, the death of any human creature. Death is your prince, you are not his patron. When you think he is engaged elsewhere, he will batter down your door, walk in and wipe his boots on you.”

“He takes the child to a looking glass so she can see her wings. Her steps are tentative, she is in awe at herself. Mirrored, the peacock eyes speak to him. Do not forget us. As the year turns, we are here: a whisper, a touch, a feather’s breath from you.”

“These days are perfect. The clear untroubled light picks out each berry shimmering in a hedge. Each leaf of a tree, the sun behind it, hangs like a golden pear.”

“The things you think are the disasters in your life are not the disasters really. Almost anything can be turned around. Out of every ditch, a path, if you can only see it.”

Mantel’s narrative techniques are noteworthy. As in Wolf Hall, she frequently refers to Cromwell by he and his name, e.g., “he, Cromwell, says.” Why? She could just write, “Cromwell says.” The many “he, Cromwell” phrases add weight to his, Cromwell’s, personality. They become hypnotic. Mantel’s narrator is also given to addressing “you” (e.g., “The boom of the cannon catches them unawares, shuddering across the water. You feel the jolt inside, in your bones”) and recruiting the reader with a “we” (e.g., “We are coming to the sweet season of the year, when the air is mild and the leaves pale and lemon cakes are flavored with lavender, egg custards barely set, infused with a sprig of basil, elderflowers simmered in a sugar syrup and poured over halved strawberries”) These touches accompany her present tense narration. Usually, I loathe the trendy present tense in novels, especially historical fiction, but Mantel is such a fine writer of such pristine prose, that I liked it.

The book is an absorbing series of vivid, intense, high stakes scenes. Even if you know the history (Henry working through a series of hapless wives in his quest for novelty, variety, and sons), Mantel makes it page turning through her beautiful and potent style, her witty dialogue, her sense of time and place. Like the best historical fiction, it is utterly convincing and immersive, exotic and human.

Audiobook reader Ben Miles is great: terse, dry, witty, intelligent; rough for Cromwell; wannabe French for Anne; petulant or naïve for Henry; salty and foul for Norfolk; toothless and savory for ex-jester Anthony; all voices just right, whether young or old, British or foreign, male or female, etc., and no straining for effect.

However, despite Mantel’s wonderful writing and absorbing story and Mile’s great reading of it, it started making me feel dirty. After Cromwell playing Cupid if not Pandarus for Henry vis-a-vis Jane, he starts digging up (or manufacturing) dirt on Anne Boleyn by interrogating her ladies in waiting and a musician/singer. All because Henry has gotten a taste for divorce. It’s tawdry.

Of course, it’s also history, and I am looking forward to the third book in the trilogy to see how Cromwell ends up. He is a complicated and compelling character: brilliant, capable, unflappable, witty, cultured, international, sympathetic (to the poor and the underdog), loyal (to the king and England), strategizing a step ahead of everyone else and always remaining his secret self. Not above taking bribes or threatening or tempting foolish and vulnerable people to gain his objectives. Is he TOO good to be true? Maybe his luck will run out or his knack decline. He will deserve what fate he receives.

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Great Sequel to Wolf Hall

I rather enjoyed the performance of Wolf Hall by [name escapes me: Stuart Something?], so it took me a bit to settle into the narrative voice at the start of this. It’s hard for the middle book of a trilogy to hold tension and balance satisfaction of plot moving forward without closing off or over reaching the mark. Bring Up the Bodies is well done in that regard. I’m glad to have the PDF of family names because I still forget certain characters (because they are referred to both by their titles and by their family names). My sympathy with Cromwell slips in this storyline, as we get deeper into the story and see how entangled his service to the king is with motives less purely loyal and more self-serving. All this happens through a light hand by the author, imagining her way into his situation and not casting judgment upon him. It’s quite eventful plotting and also extremely complex and thought-provoking. Looking forward to book 3…

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Liked this one better than the first in the series

Still very oddly written snd paced, but it is enjoyable nonetheless. I think it better than the first book myself.

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very well done

loved it, hard to understand the King's role in this. also Cromwell's of course.