Bring up the Bodies, by Hilary Mantel Rothdas book review RSS
2.6 Stars

I can confidently say that this is a fine book to listen to while laying down caulk. They switched narrators for this one, and while the new narrator is not as outstanding as the old he is still perfectly serviceable to listen to while you watch the silicone flow. The sequel picks up where Wolf Hall left off, with Cromwell's rise to pre-eminence and the death of Thomas Moore. It then covers the political maneuvering during Anne Boleyn's reign, and the replacement of Anne Boleyn with wife number 3. As before, there is a great deal of competence porn, and Cromwell being in charge and taking care of things and people. In this case though the events have a darker tone. It is less Cromwell rationalizing the nation's finances and more Cromwell murdering his political enemies and fully embracing the courtier/Game of Thrones life style. There is also a bit of the Peter Principal at work here, as it is not at all clear that Cromwell can swim in high level political waters as well as he can take care of financial and legal matters. Near the end of the book he says that he is ready for next political knife fight that is surely coming, but I don't see any evidence of it, or indication that Cromwell has some way of handling his enemies or Henry's fickleness over the long term.

So, that is the basic idea. Spunky kid makes good, rises to high office, and is gradually corrupted by it. I'm not sure that this is a story that needs 1200+ pages to tell, but again it is fine for listening to while you do house repairs. Still, listening to this story and Wolf Hall, I kept being reminded of a bit from one of Naomi Novik's books, like book #4 in her dragon waifu series, where the dragons start telling stories to each other. The dragons are not like the hypothetical lion, where even if he could speak we could not understand him. Rather the dragon's story making process is recognizably human, of taking very basic desires and then building elaborate and intricate shells of events and words around them. It's just that the dragons have moderately different basic desires then humans do, so their stories are focused on different ideas and values. In the case of Wolf Hall/Bring up the Bodies, Henry the 8th's desire that generates all these words is very plain, and it can't help but feel a little silly reading so very many words built up around such a simple and mechanical impulse. I can't say that there is a lot to learn from the experience, and so I am retroactively taking away .1 stars from Wolf Hall. Take that, Booker Prize committee.