This sequel to Wolf Hall covers Thomas Cromwell’s determination to
keep favour with King Henry VIII, while dealing with Henry's waning
interest in Anne Boleyn and the transfer of his affections to the
quiet Jane Seymour. Both of the women's families conspire to secure
their daughter's position in the court.
At the beginning we follow
Katherine’s illness and subsequent death and Anne Boleyn’s concerns
that her daughter is foremost in the king's affections, rather than
those of Princess Mary. We then follow Anne's desperate last attempts
to keep the King’s interest as she fails to produce the male heir he
so desperately wants leaving her vulnerable to Cromwell who works hard
to do his king's bidding and engineer her dramatic downfall ensuring
Henry is free to marry Jane Seymour.
Cromwell comes across as a man who loved his family and missed his
wife and daughters desperately, while at the same time having to
ensure he keeps one step ahead of his enemies who are equally
determined to see him fail. He is clever, manipulative and thorough as
he contrives to manage the King's moods and whims, so as not to make
similar mistakes to those before him and end up losing his own life.
I preferred Wolf Hall to this book, probably because I was more aware
of the story behind Bring Up The Bodies, so it held fewer surprises or
intrigue for me. However, the writing is undoubtedly superb and the
beginning clever with the hawks used at the king’s hunting party being
named after Cromwell’s dead daughters.