The Mirror & the Light
“If you cannot speak truth at a beheading, when can you speak it?”England, May 1536. Anne Boleyn is dead, decapitated in the space of a heartbeat by a hired French executioner. As her remains are bundled into oblivion, Thomas Cromwell breakfasts with the victors. The blacksmith’s son from Putney emerges from the spring’s bloodbath to continue his climb to power and wealth, while his formidable master, Henry VIII, settles to short-lived happiness with his third queen before Jane dies giving birth to the male heir he most craves.Cromwell is a man with only his wits to rely on; he has no great family to back him, no private army. Despite rebellion at home, traitors plotting abroad and the threat of invasion testing Henry’s regime to the breaking point, Cromwell’s robust imagination sees a new country in the mirror of the future. But can a nation, or a person, shed the past like a skin? Do the dead continually unbury themselves? What will you do, the Spanish ambassador asks Cromwell, when the king turns on you, as sooner or later he turns on everyone close to him?With The Mirror & the Light, Hilary Mantel brings to a triumphant close the trilogy she began with Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. She traces the final years of Thomas Cromwell, the boy from nowhere who climbs to the heights of power, offering a defining portrait of predator and prey, of a ferocious contest between present and past, between royal will and a common man’s vision: of a modern nation making itself through conflict, passion, and courage.

The Mirror & the Light Details

TitleThe Mirror & the Light
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseMar 10th, 2020
PublisherHenry Holt & Company
ISBN-139780805096606
Rating
GenreHistorical, Historical Fiction, Fiction, European Literature, British Literature, Literary Fiction, Literature, English History, Tudor Period, Novels, Audiobook, Adult

The Mirror & the Light Review

  • Nermin
    January 1, 1970
    I really don't understand how and why anyone would give an unpublished book 1 star (and 4,5 stars for that matter). Isn't it high time Goodreads did something about it?
  • Marchpane
    January 1, 1970
    Aaaand… he’s back. Thomas Cromwell aka ‘Cremuel’ aka ‘Crumb’ aka ‘he, Cromwell’ aka... ‘he’. The upjumped blacksmith’s boy, now Master Secretary, is newly elevated to Baron as The Mirror & The Light kicks off, a reward for his part in disposing of Anne Boleyn. I could go into raptures about Mantel’s exceptional prose — here sinewy, there sweeping — or the finely detailed historical research, or her vivid, textured Tudor England setting: as close to time travel as literature gets. But the real tr Aaaand… he’s back. Thomas Cromwell aka ‘Cremuel’ aka ‘Crumb’ aka ‘he, Cromwell’ aka... ‘he’. The upjumped blacksmith’s boy, now Master Secretary, is newly elevated to Baron as The Mirror & The Light kicks off, a reward for his part in disposing of Anne Boleyn. I could go into raptures about Mantel’s exceptional prose — here sinewy, there sweeping — or the finely detailed historical research, or her vivid, textured Tudor England setting: as close to time travel as literature gets. But the real triumph of this trilogy is the use of perspective, which reaches its acme in this final instalment.“He, Cromwell.” This is the special sauce, this close 3rd person. It’s how we ride around on Cromwell’s shoulder, seeing everything from his unique point of view. It is not objective. It’s immediate and intimate. It is also, for some readers, a major irritant, but if you have made it to book 3 you’re at least used to it by now.In this final volume we go deeper into Cromwell’s psyche than we have ventured before. He’s a lot more reflective, not regretful exactly — he’s too pragmatic for that — but he’s seen things, done things, that prick his conscience and these things dwell in the tenebrous corners of his mind. Spectres of the past. Harbingers of what’s to come.Every now and then we take wing, arise from Cromwell’s shoulder and soar: above the barges on the Thames, over the fields of Britain, or the alehouses where sedition foments. Sometimes his thoughts lead us further into the past, to times of heroes, saints or Roman invaders. And always he’s exhuming, turning over memories, more recent history: Venice, all slick cobblestones and mist; or Putney on a murky night, a cellar and a knife. As we loop back to scenes from the earlier books, our view is shifted ever so slightly, casting light in new places, where fresh details glint and catch the eye. Which means The Mirror & The Light isn’t merely a continuation of this story, it also enfolds and contains everything that came before, adding richness and complexity to the whole. At around 900 pages, this is nothing if not comprehensive. There is much minutiae of politics, religious reform, scheming and conspiring, and a huge cast of characters, all of which will no doubt test the patience of some readers. But this is it, fin, no more, and so ardent fans, savour every page of this masterful, shining achievement.
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  • Adam Dalva
    January 1, 1970
    It does not disappoint. It sticks the landing. And more: though it lacks the seductiveness of Wolf Hall, it gradually becomes the highpoint of the series. Mantel does the impossible here: she accelerates through time, expanding Thomas Cromwell's life in both directions as he ages and becomes haughty, as Henry VIII rushes through his wives, as England veers through myriad catastrophes in the backdrop. Light spoilers will follow. What a relief for me to finally, 11 years after Wolf Hall, to read T It does not disappoint. It sticks the landing. And more: though it lacks the seductiveness of Wolf Hall, it gradually becomes the highpoint of the series. Mantel does the impossible here: she accelerates through time, expanding Thomas Cromwell's life in both directions as he ages and becomes haughty, as Henry VIII rushes through his wives, as England veers through myriad catastrophes in the backdrop. Light spoilers will follow. What a relief for me to finally, 11 years after Wolf Hall, to read Thomas Cromwell's wikipedia page! And Henry's, and Queen Jane's, and all the rests.We open with Anne Boelyn's death: it's a bit of a stagger, assuming, like me, you haven't read Bringing up The Bodies again, and you finished in 2012. There's a curious effect here - I remember the characters faintly, spirits from long ago, but after the initial slog of figuring out who everyone was again, they seemed axiomatic. Mantel's Henry VIII is a particularly indelible character, whose caprices, weight, and self-regard shift and expand as the book draws along, as the unseen net begins to circle around Cromwell. As effective as the great scenes of court (the future Queen Mary and the delightful ambassador Chapuys crackle especially) are, Cromwell's early childhood memories, particularly those with the eel-boy, an oft-referenced interaction that takes harrowing form at book's end, spark just as well. Cromwell is the beating heart of this, his unconscious voice and his dialogue flowing in and out of the text in a way that seems effortless and shows Mantel's absolute mastery of her famous lead. He is a broad, fascinating character (a moving scene with the daughter of his former master, Cardinal Wolsey, is partnered with a bizarre, fascinating rant about how effectively he keeps the books). The ending, which I won't spoil, is gorgeous, unique, and smart.This is an ideal series for our life in quarantine, with soap opera twists and a fascinating educational aspect, though I will caution that there are quite a few scenes of plague-related plots. An attendant becomes sick. The court makes sure to find who he has been in contact with, to keep them at home. I, here in whatever 2020 has become, felt time collapse.
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  • Gumble's Yard
    January 1, 1970
    Simply magnificent – in my view the strongest of a Trilogy whose first two volumes were among the most deserving winners in Booker history.A book which shines a light into history and in doing so holds up a mirror to our present day.Last Winter, a group of colleagues from around the world visited the UK for an internal conference in Windsor and in a break from the formal proceedings we took a trip to Windsor Castle. One of the many interesting parts of the Tour for me was St George’s Hall – and Simply magnificent – in my view the strongest of a Trilogy whose first two volumes were among the most deserving winners in Booker history.A book which shines a light into history and in doing so holds up a mirror to our present day.Last Winter, a group of colleagues from around the world visited the UK for an internal conference in Windsor and in a break from the formal proceedings we took a trip to Windsor Castle. One of the many interesting parts of the Tour for me was St George’s Hall – and its ceiling studied with the coats of arms of every Knight of the Garter since its foundation in 1348. I say every Knight – but in fact some of the shields are numbered but blank – these I was told represent Knights expelled from the order (in the early days typically accompanied by execution), and I enjoyed conversing with one of the guides asking which Knight each shield represented and seeing if I could identify the reason for their expulsion. I particularly remember a conversation around the Earl of Monmouth and how his expulsion for trying to overthow a King who only a few years later was overthrown to popular acclaim, was itself a perfect example of revolution (in the true and original meaning of the word) and the wheel of fortune.One of the shields of course represents Thomas Cromwell (his election by the King into the order being one of the high points both of this book and Cromwell’s career; if in some ways designed to legitimized Cromwell’s being effectively made the King’s Uncle with the marriage of Gregory to Lady Ughtred (the Queen’s widowed Sister). And the idea of Cromwell as something of a blank canvas is one which partly lies at the heart of the conception of this fabulous trilogy – Mantel writing what must rank as one of the greatest character studies of all time, of a character who as his biographer Diarmaid MacCullough says is elusive even for a historian due to what he believes to be “deliberate destruction .. [when] Cromwell’s household heard of his arrest .. they began a systematic process of destroying the out-tray of his principle archive”. The result is that “amid the torrent of paperwork through which the conscientious biographer wades to recapture what is left of Thomas Cromwell, the man’s own voice is largely missing”. He then goes on to say “Hilary Mantel has sensitively captured this quality in Thomas Cromwell’s archive in her novels: her Cromwell is pre-eminently an observer, even of himself, not ‘I’ but ‘he’”.But in a different way Cromwell is not a blank canvas at all. Any historian writes with the background of previous biographers (as well as other historians who have included Cromwell – often far from sympathetically – in wider accounts of this pivotal period in not just English, but World history”. And any novelist writes similarly on top of previous fictional realisations of Cromwell – perhaps most notably the pro-More, anti-Cromwell account of “A Man of All Season”, an account which I can only comment seems to make as a hero a man who died in an attempt to ensure common Englishmen could not read the Gospel (and was canonised as a result).So this trilogy is not just a novel but a palimpsest – and in this last section of the trilogy Mantel brings the idea of history being re-written, re-evaluated but always in a way which can only imperfectly erase previous versions out explicitly. We have for example: - The frequent references to the devices of the fallen Queens and their intertwined initials with Henry’s, needing constant repainting; - Cromwell’s interrogation taking place in a room he decorated “for Anne Boleyn to lodge before her coronation. It was he who reglaxed them, and ordered the godesses on the walls; who had their eyes changed from brown to blue when Jane Seymour came in”; - As the book nears its end Cromwell first due to the strictures of fever and then his imminent death, revisits his life story - Mantel accompanies the reader on a revisit of the previous two volumes – in one bravura section of only 2-3 pages we have both the opening and closing sentences of “Wolf Hall” repeated; we also get the full story behind the opening and the young Cromwell’s escape abroad- And Cromwell is very conscious of it as he attempts to re-model England: “Can you make a new England? You can write a new story. You can write new texts and destroy the old ones, set the torn leaves of Duns Scotus sailing about the quadrangles, and place the gospels in every church. You can write on England, but what was written before keeps showing through…” - And finally this idea that history is written in layers, is the reason why this fabulous trilogy is so vital – and despite its historical fiction nature, of far greater relevance to today’s world than the supposedly more contemporary fiction that surrounds us.While reading the trilogy (a third re-read of the first volume, a second re-read of the second) I came across the following quote in the New Statesman taken from a letter written to Machiavelli (a contemporary of Cromwell and whose book increasingly features as the trilogy progresses) “I earnestly believe that only men's faces and the outwards aspect of things change, while the same things reoccur again and again. Thus we are witnessing events that happened earlier. But the alteration in names and outward aspects is such that only the most learned are able to recognise them. That is why history is a useful and profitable discipline, because it shows you and allows you to recognise what you've never seen and experienced" Since the trilogy started we have had the following: Brexit – and the divides both without and within Europe, Nick Timothy/Fiona Hill/Dominic Cummings, #metoo, Trump, Covid-19, Fake News, AusterityMy view was that the main themes of this trilogy, are the following areas of the 16th Century:- Swings in Britain’s relationships with Europe, tension between the countries in Britain on that topic, shifting power blocs in Continental Europe itself- The North-South divide of the Pilgrimage of Grace- Advisors and councillors to leaders – their rise, fall and their emnities- Sexual harassment and belittling and subjugation of women- Braggart leaders with self esteem issues emerging in fiery denunciations of their critics - Plagues hitting London - Manipulation of news sources, propaganda and debates around what is true and what isn’t - Government spending cuts impacting on the poor and the tension with the well off as to whether they should support the less fortunateJust an example: Interesting for those of us in the UK in late May to reflect on what happens when an advisor (on whom a leader completely relies for political judgment and did his European policy) alienates large parts of the country including the people, powerful Bishops and other politicians - and then behaves in a way which both outraged them further and gives them an opening to being him down. No Rose Garden press conference here more an interrogation in the the Tower by the agents of the Tudor Rose. Interesting for those of us in the UK this weekend to reflect on what happens when an advisor (on whom a leader completely relies for political judgment and did his European policy) alienates large parts of the country including the people, powerful Bishops and other politicians - and then behaves in a way which both outraged them further and gives them an opening to being him down. No Rose Garden press conference here more an interrogation in the the Tower by the agents of the Tudor Rose. If only Cromwell had thought to explain his fondness for sourcing Lutheran texts as just to help with checking his eyesight. only Cromwell had thought to explain his fondness for sourcing Lutheran texts as just to help with checking his eyesight. ------------------------------------------ORIGINAL NOTESI attended an event at the Royal Festival Hall tonight to launch the book. The evening started with two of the actors from the TV series reading first from Wolf Hall and then Bring Up The Bodies. Then Hilary Mantel read the opening part of The Mirror and The Light. She then had a long, detailed and very informative interview with the journalist Alex Clark and finished the evening by reading almost the end of the book (p866 if you have a written copy). A few points I found of interest and remembered (I did not take notes so I missed much more):On the length of the book: she emphasised that readers were not reviewers - they did not need to rush to finish the book in 48 hours so they could write a review. (Some on Goodreads may disagree!!). In particular the book is deliberately set out in five main parts (before the closing Mirror and Light chapters dealing respectively with Cromwell’s death and execution). Each of the parts is in three sections (mirroring the trilogy) and structured with an arc something like a novel. In other words she is encouraging people to read one section at a time. While writing the book she was in regular dialogue with Diarmaid MacCullouch and the biography he was writing. I read they biography earlier on the year and it sounds like it is an ideal companion as they used many of the same sources. Intriguingly she mentioned that all six wives feature in the book (I was unclear if book in this context meant The Mirror and The Light or the three volumes - she said elsewhere in the evening that she often talks about “the book” and even “Wolf Hall” meaning all three of the novels as separately published). In particular she said that the sixth wife (Catherine Parr) is in The Mirror and The Light and “not all readers will find her but you will be very pleased with yourself if you do”. So there is a challenge! UPDATE- a fairly easy one by most accounts. The writing of the plays had a big impact on her - in particular realising the importance of placement in a scene reflecting the power dynamics and of how and where dialogue is spoken changing its meaning. The influence of this involvement (which happened after the first two books were published) changed the way she wrote this third book. Often when starting a scene / idea she would imagine how she would write it if she had two actors on a stage and two pieces of dialogue and then expand it from there. She still regards her most impressive achievement as explaining the French East India Company scandal in “A Place of Greater Safety” and when faced with difficulties in this book with how to represent difficult ideas (which were more common here than in the first two volumes) she reminded herself that “you are the woman who ....) She regards her rewriting of the historical consensus verdict on Cromwell as a bad man, as a long overdue correction to an incorrect view perpetuated in secondary sources and which did not stand up when going back to primary sources. From writing the books she has gained a profound respect for those who fought for the reformation and the Gospel in England and has come on a journey much closer to a faith herself. The book is full of references back to images, ideas and scenes in the first two books. “Every character has its arc. Every pigeon comes home to roost”. The night before she finished the book she did not sleep as she felt all of the characters coming back to her demanding she accounted for completing their journey. The next morning went she went down her picture of Henry VIII had fallen from her wall, which have her the sense that The character of Cromwell had our survived even Henry and gave her the impetus to write the closing chapter (which was “more of an assembly job” as she had already written it in pieces). From the first conception of the book she had always imagined it bookended with the “So now get up”.
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  • Violet wells
    January 1, 1970
    If I could have a Hilary Mantel wish it would be that she writes a novel about Jane Rochford. I constantly found myself wishing Hilary had taken more interest in her. Was it perhaps because her and Anne were so similar that they were at loggerheads? Of all the women at court it seems to me she was the one who had the most venomous (and healthiest contempt) for Henry as a man; that she was the most thwarted by the paltry opportunities offered to women in 16th century England. I couldn't help feel If I could have a Hilary Mantel wish it would be that she writes a novel about Jane Rochford. I constantly found myself wishing Hilary had taken more interest in her. Was it perhaps because her and Anne were so similar that they were at loggerheads? Of all the women at court it seems to me she was the one who had the most venomous (and healthiest contempt) for Henry as a man; that she was the most thwarted by the paltry opportunities offered to women in 16th century England. I couldn't help feeling that it was with a riotous fatalistic glee that she eventually encouraged Catherine Howard to cuckold Henry. As if the angry feminist in her had had enough of all the patriarchal condescension and bullying. I would imagine very few people are going to read this as a stand-alone novel. Hilary had already done all the hard work with the first two books. We all know what will happen to Cromwell but Hilary's skill in brushing almost every early detail with foreboding is masterful. As in the best thrillers it's like every detail radiates the importance of a consummating clue. Cromwell's demise is potently present throughout this book and this in large part is due to how brilliantly Mantel weaves detail into a kind of alternative tapestry whose story Cromwell can't see but we the reader can. Her decision to posit the narrative voice just above but not quite within Cromwell is paramount in making this split so subtle and dramatically effective. For one thing, it heightens our protective instincts towards him. You can tell Hilary didn't want to finish this. She continually procrastinates, she lingers lovingly over every passage, if anything she indulges still more her love of the detail of the fabric of 16th century English life. Meditation plays a bigger part in this novel. Urgency is the last thing on her mind. In fact, this novel is outrageously long considering how little actually happens in his personal life - all the women have now exited the stage, Hilary has already exhausted Cromwell's memories and he forms no new relationship of much interest (an invented daughter adds nothing to Cromwell's character and wasn't for me entirely successful): he is simply left to repeat the same battles with his old enemies and come to terms with his ghosts. But Mantel performs two marvels here: one is to show how Cromwell's relationship with his past subtly change as the pressures of court politics begin to wear him down. As he becomes outwardly less vigilant he becomes inwardly more finely tuned. She kind of ghosts in the possibility that in his mind his downfall isn't entirely undue given how many downfalls he himself has presided over. Resignation begins to undo him. The other is to show how the significance of detail changes with time. One of the most exhilarating moments of the novel is when we learn what details are being used to bring Cromwell down. These details return to us electrified. At least, it was lovingly lingered over until Cromwell's arrest. His fall from grace was so abrupt I was left feeling a bit cheated. We saw it coming; why didn't he? It's also a bit disconcerting how she hurries through his imprisonment. I thought she might have made more poignant drama of his last days and the ghosts of his life. (Though I loved it that he travelled back to Tuscany in his mind.) I would imagine one of the most difficult decisions for a novelist is choosing at what point in the text you're going to insert your material, especially with regards to a character's memories. I perhaps felt she might have made better use of some of these at the end. But suddenly, from not wanting to finish it, she seems in a hurry to get it over and done with. Probably though I felt cheated simply because I didn't want it to end. There's little question Hilary has raised the bar where historical fiction is concerned. I watched The Tudors while reading this and it seemed like vulgar slapstick pantomime in comparison. I was appalled when Cromwell is shown laughing at the burlesque of Wolsey. And you sense, after Mantel, never again will that interpretation be possible. She's also perhaps even raised the bar where Tudor documentaries are concerned. I also watched a series about Henry VIII's six wives and was struck by how facile and flimsily but self-importantly subjective it was. Mantel's great achievement is to give us the illusion that only she has foraged through to the truth about Cromwell, Henry VIII and the Tudor court. She entered Cromwell's heart and soul with such remarkably penetrating intimacy that it was like she was writing about a member of her own family. I suspect one reason she was able to identify so closely with Cromwell is the love of detail they clearly share.
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  • Hugh
    January 1, 1970
    Shortlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction 2020, probably the first of many.A monumental book that brings a brilliant series to a fitting conclusion.I am neither a historian nor a writer, which means I am far from being the best person to review this book, nor does there seem much point writing in detail about the plot, most of which is documented history, so I would rather focus on personal impressions.As in the earlier books, whatever we may feel about her take on his motivations, Mantel's Shortlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction 2020, probably the first of many.A monumental book that brings a brilliant series to a fitting conclusion.I am neither a historian nor a writer, which means I am far from being the best person to review this book, nor does there seem much point writing in detail about the plot, most of which is documented history, so I would rather focus on personal impressions.As in the earlier books, whatever we may feel about her take on his motivations, Mantel's Cromwell is a brilliantly realised and very human character, for all the barbarity that survival in such times required. Once again, he is mostly described in the third person, either as he, or he with a job title (Lord Privy Seal for most of the book and Essex at the end).The story is bookended by two beheadings - we start where Bring Up the Bodies finished at the execution of Anne Boleyn, and we finish with Cromwell's own demise (though there is a brief chapter at the end which explains what happened to the real people who were still alive at this point, and my Waterstones edition also has a brief note on some of the locations Mantel visited while researching the book and how they affected her perceptions). He, the protagonist, is increasingly haunted by his own past, both the people and the events that shaped him, which enables Mantel to revisit key moments from the first two books. All six of Henry's wives appear, though the last two Catherines are peripheral characters. As always there is plenty of humour, the language is lively, and Mantel's grasp of period detail is impressive, at least to a non-expert. The dialogue retains just enough archaic language to be plausible without ever becoming difficult to follow. There are a surprising number of issues that have contemporary relevance.The core story is in six parts, each of which consists of three chapters except the last, which has just two. These chapters vary in length from a few pages to over 100.Mantel saves the best for part six, which starts with Cromwell's arrest and imagines the interrogation, the way his allies deserted him and the way his own life is distorted just as he distorted those he sought to destroy. A must read book which will almost certainly bring Mantel further prizes.
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  • Paromjit
    January 1, 1970
    A brilliant end to this superb historical trilogy on Cromwell, the ordinary man who rises to an exalted status under Henry VIII. Mantel’s research is impeccable, her blend of fact and fiction is extraordinary, nowhere is this more apparent than in her amazing characterisations. Despite knowing where this is all heading, the tension and suspense had me biting my nails! Simply marvellous and highly recommended.
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  • Desirae
    January 1, 1970
    I need more "He, Cromwell..." in my life.Seriously, I cannot wait for this. I need more "He, Cromwell..." in my life.Seriously, I cannot wait for this.
  • Sean Barrs
    January 1, 1970
    This is an extraordinarily potent and beautifully written (if not quite perfect) conclusion to the trilogy Here Mantel closes the book on Cromwell’s life, depicting his swift downfall in all its inglory, but she has remained unflinchingly conservative (to a fault?) telling the story of his demise. I will get to that later, firstly I want to talk about the tragedy she depicts here. “What have I, but what my King gives me? Who am I. but who he has made me? All my trust is in him.” It is t This is an extraordinarily potent and beautifully written (if not quite perfect) conclusion to the trilogy Here Mantel closes the book on Cromwell’s life, depicting his swift downfall in all its inglory, but she has remained unflinchingly conservative (to a fault?) telling the story of his demise. I will get to that later, firstly I want to talk about the tragedy she depicts here. “What have I, but what my King gives me? Who am I. but who he has made me? All my trust is in him.” It is trust misplaced in a false and ungrateful vessel. The entirety of Henry's reign is stained with treachery, divorces, and murder. He elevated those useful to him and then destroyed them when they no longer were successful or could no longer achieve the impossible. All Henry’s advisers played off each other, fighting for the most power and sway over the King. They tried to set each other up for massive falls and the King let them do it, so they did not unite against him and continued to serve his whims. Above them all, though, stands Thomas Cromwell in skill, ability, and loyalty. At least, that is the version Mantel portrays. He gained much from Henry and gave even more with his service. There are advantages he could have taken, favours he could have asked, but he does not get above himself and is simply rewarded lavishly for his success at court and the promises he has kept to his sovereign. His common birth has granted him an insane work ethic that many others that have been in his position could not match. And as such he works tirelessly for his King and country. The Cromwell here has no sense of personal advancement or ambition. It is done out of honest duty. That is enough. “I hear you are Privy Seal. You climb so fast, my lord, the kingdom has no ladders enough.” We all know the proverbs about those that climb too high. Cromwell always played a dangerous game. He had no family, no status, only his skill as a politician kept him in the King’s favour. And when that skill dried up, or he failed because of powers out of his control, his usefulness dried up. So, he is branded a traitor and murdered. The Cromwell here is totally innocent but I do wonder how different the real Cromwell was. I feel Mantel has been somewhat unusually conservative here. I have always found the way she writes unique. The first time I read Wolf Hall I found it totally inaccessible and really had to take my time with it. Here, though, she seems to have reigned in some of her flair and artsy syntax to tell her story with precision and focus. This spans many years rather than the narrow focus she has used before. And it still works and it still retains much of its charm and eloquence of expression, but it is still conservative, conservative in its representation of Cromwell and his downfall. A degree of openness would have given the story a little more edge and possibility. Cromwell here is innocent and loyal (Mantel clearly favours him) but the history surrounding his actual demise is somewhat murkier. Henry was fickle and easily swayed so Cromwell’s rivals were not hard pressed to convince him of Cromwell’s “treachery.” But I do wonder if he genuinely believed them or if it was merely a convenient excuse to ride himself of a stale minister. I just cannot fully buy into the idea of his total innocence because I cannot believe in the notion of a selfless politician in Tudor England. Either way, the final few chapters were fantastically well delivered as this series concludes poetically. _________________________________You can connect with me on social media via My Linktree.__________________________________
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  • Fionnuala
    January 1, 1970
    Near the beginning of this book, there's a scene in which an exotic cat, imported from Damascus, tries to escape from the confines of Thomas Cromwell's garden in London by climbing a tree near the wall. As he watches his servants try to capture the cat with a net, Cromwell puts his money on the Damascene cat outwitting their attempts because, like her, he himself has travelled far to get where he is, and he would fight anyone who tried to remove him from his high position.That particular cat was Near the beginning of this book, there's a scene in which an exotic cat, imported from Damascus, tries to escape from the confines of Thomas Cromwell's garden in London by climbing a tree near the wall. As he watches his servants try to capture the cat with a net, Cromwell puts his money on the Damascene cat outwitting their attempts because, like her, he himself has travelled far to get where he is, and he would fight anyone who tried to remove him from his high position.That particular cat was never mentioned again, but the scene remained in my mind, and I found myself looking out for further scenes involving cats. Part of the motivation was curiosity to see how far Hilary Mantel can push a metaphor but another part of my motivation involved finding reasons to keep reading this book. I had been completely charmed by the writing in Wolf Hall, and even more enthralled by Bring Up the Bodies so it was a surprise to me to find that I was a reluctant reader in the early chapters of this third book in the Cromwell series. I wondered if it was because in this book, Cromwell is older, tireder, and consequently the reader needs to worry for him? When he backs away from a fire, for instance, I worried. When he remembers the light shining on the blade of Anne Boleyn's executioner's sword, I worried. When he gets a fever, I worried. When he starts making mistakes, I almost gave up.I also found myself concerned for Hilary Mantel's well-being. I wondered how she could bear the double strain: helping Cromwell outwit his enemies and simultaneously outwitting her own fatigue in the face of the huge task she set herself here. But she has succeeded marvelously. As one of the characters says, so many words and oaths and deeds, that when folks read of them in time to come they will hardly believe such a man as Lord Cromwell walked the earth.Or such a writer as Hilary Mantel!Although slowed down by my anxieties for both Cromwell and Mantel, I continued to read (with ever increasing pleasure), and continued to keep an eye out for cats. Soon I came across an episode where Cromwell talks of having had seven lives so far, now that he's been promoted to the office of Privy Seal. But then I worried that he'd be promoted again. He was.As well as cats, there are similes and metaphors involving birds. A character is shown working through a mass of paperwork like a raven through a rubbish heap. Stab, stab, stab—with his pen, not a beak—till everything before him is minced or crushed or shattered like a snail-shell burst on a stone. The reader will have reason to remember raven-like Richard Riche.Further on, another all-black bird called a chough was mentioned. The chough is known for its extraordinary manoeuvrability in flight and its unusual faithfulness to its nesting site. We learn that Cromwell has placed a chough on his family's coat of arms because it was Cardinal Wolsey's emblem, and Cromwell is utterly faithful to Wolsey, his first 'master'. Like the chough, Cromwell is very good at manoeuvring—he can twist and turn events to his advantage, and even people's minds, especially the king's. But Cromwell has to twist and turn to evade his hoard of enemies too, and there's a fine description of a deer hunt which describes his position well: Hart may ruse, and he may fly, he may plunge into the chilly stream, but the hounds run on and never change...and as they run, they revile him, baying their taunts in a language he can understand, calling him a varlet and a knave... In normal hunting practice, the hart has a fair chance to escape but as the king gets too heavy and too unfit* to ride his horse to the hunt, the rules of the hunt are adapted, and the deer are driven to where the king stands with his crossbow ready. The reader fears that the only way for his enemies to trap Cromwell will involve such foul means.In Bring Up the Bodies, there was an extended falconry metaphor which I enjoyed a lot because in that book Cromwell was always the hunter and his enemies were always the prey. As this book progresses, the enemies increase constantly and appear in the most unlikely places. One of those enemies is described as a hawk: What's she [Margaret Pole] doing? Needlework, like any beldame. Her hawk's profile is lowered over her work, as if she is pecking it.…Margaret says, "You are a snake, Cromwell.""Oh no, no, no." A dog, madam, and in your scent.If he's to be hunted, he'll be hunter too. Besides the allusions to various creatures in that scene, there's also another style element that I'd begun to notice more and more. From the beginning of this trilogy, Hilary Mantel has used a third person narrative but with a first person point of view, and during this volume, the third person voice has morphed more and more into a first person voice. So I wasn't surprised when, at about the half-way mark, a 'we' voice begins to appear: He has been waiting for a clear day to see the apple trees pruned...The middle of the tree we call the crown. We take out any shoots that are frictious against each other, those that are growing backwards, inwards, any way they shouldn't. This passage occurs during a period when Cromwell is busy suppressing rebellion in the north of the country and it is easy to see the resemblance between the pruning process and the rooting out of rebellious factions. Later we find that he is keeping a sort of journal which he refers to as The Book Called Henry. I wondered if the 'we' sections that had crept into the narrative were Mantel's clever merging of her book with his. I even wondered at times if Mantel had herself merged completely with her character. At one point he advises his nephew who works in the king's chambers, to use everything, discard nothing. The reader feels Mantel has used everything she found while researching her subject, and discarded nothing. I made a lot of margin notes while reading this book but now I think I'll discard the rest of them as the review is too long already. Incidentally, there was a reference to margin notes which caught my eye, being someone who uses the margins of her books freely. When an English version of the Bible was being prepared for printing, the printers were asked to set the line to the edge of the page because, as Cromwell says, it does not make for a good appearance, but no white space means no perversion by marginalia.I'm afraid my copy of The Mirror and the Light has been greatly perverted. *Henry VIII by Hans Holbein who has a cameo role in the narrative. Cromwell seemed to imply that Holbein had slimmed the regent down considerably. Even so, he's a massive figure. Pity the poor horses that had to bear his weight..
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  • T_creum
    January 1, 1970
    One reviewer knocked the book, claimed Mantel savages the royals just to sell books. The book is not published yet! And for goodness sake, read the speech! Mantel obviously feels sorry for Kate, and the "free press" gleefully and intentionally misrepresented her comments to sell newspapers Who is guilty here?
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  • Teresa
    January 1, 1970
    4.5If I wasn’t as absorbed in this work as I was in the first two, that’s not Hilary Mantel’s fault. Wizard that she is with words, she can’t change the times: neither the past nor the present. Fairly early on I found myself wondering why I wasn’t as engaged. Then realization hit me: reading of powerful men whose every action is to appease a petty, egomaniacal tyrant while carving out power and possession for themselves is not conducive to mental health in our time of pandemic. Unlike Henry VIII 4.5If I wasn’t as absorbed in this work as I was in the first two, that’s not Hilary Mantel’s fault. Wizard that she is with words, she can’t change the times: neither the past nor the present. Fairly early on I found myself wondering why I wasn’t as engaged. Then realization hit me: reading of powerful men whose every action is to appease a petty, egomaniacal tyrant while carving out power and possession for themselves is not conducive to mental health in our time of pandemic. Unlike Henry VIII, we can’t escape to a confiscated country estate during the plagues. So, the ambiguity Mantel generated for a man like Thomas Cromwell in her first two books was sorely tested.But I never wanted to stop reading. Mantel’s gorgeous prose carried me through. Any time a woman entered the story, my interest rallied, but now there's no Anne Boleyn hovering over the proceedings; Henry’s women must now be demure and agreeable—if only for their own safety. Yet again, it’s not Mantel’s fault that political machinations were/are dominated by the aforesaid men and women were pawns in their games. Not surprisingly, Mantel had a final trick up her sleeve near the end of the penultimate chapter to awaken my empathy.Breathtaking paragraphs are scattered throughout, demanding to be reread, including those that illuminate the title. At first the latter are as subtle as a single candle. Add another candle then another, and the metaphor burns brighter.*(My ratings always reflect my reading experience, thus the lack of the ½ star; and I reiterate: It’s not Hilary Mantel’s fault.)
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  • Phrynne
    January 1, 1970
    Throughout the whole of this amazing trilogy all I have been able to think is what an incredible man Thomas Cromwell must have been and how well Hilary Mantel has portrayed him for us. She is an artist with words, giving the reader a clear visual picture of every one of the historical characters she introduces and there are many!As an historical account of life in England between 1536 and 1540 The Mirror & the Light just sweeps the board. Every little detail is there - what they ate, how they dr Throughout the whole of this amazing trilogy all I have been able to think is what an incredible man Thomas Cromwell must have been and how well Hilary Mantel has portrayed him for us. She is an artist with words, giving the reader a clear visual picture of every one of the historical characters she introduces and there are many!As an historical account of life in England between 1536 and 1540 The Mirror & the Light just sweeps the board. Every little detail is there - what they ate, how they dressed, where they lived and most importantly how they survived, living each day with the threat of the plague and other diseasesAdd to this living under such a capricious King as Henry VIII. This may be a book about Thomas Cromwell but Henry often takes centre stage as such a flamboyant character always will. Mantel pictures him as a charismatic man who still had many of the attitudes of a small child. A dangerous mix for a King of England in those days.Of course I knew how the book had to end, but the build up was so well done. The parts that everyone played in the lead up to the sad outcome were exposed in detail and Cromwell's own feelings well imagined. There were heroes and there were villains and many people including Cromwell were almost certainly both.Such a great series. I loved it all.
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  • Paul Fulcher
    January 1, 1970
    The Mirror and the Light, and its over-hyped reception, encapsulates everything that is rotten with the state of much of British literary fiction (some wonderful independent publishers aside):- a blind spot to the development of the novel in the 20th century and a fixation with the 19th century form (perhaps as it marked the highpoint of English literature) as if Kafka, Joyce, Musil, Woolf, Bernhard, Marquez etc had never written;- an obsession with celebrity authors and a lack of editing of big The Mirror and the Light, and its over-hyped reception, encapsulates everything that is rotten with the state of much of British literary fiction (some wonderful independent publishers aside):- a blind spot to the development of the novel in the 20th century and a fixation with the 19th century form (perhaps as it marked the highpoint of English literature) as if Kafka, Joyce, Musil, Woolf, Bernhard, Marquez etc had never written;- an obsession with celebrity authors and a lack of editing of big names - there is no excuse for a novel 904 pages long, particularly one so syrupy and overwritten;- in an industry crying out for diversity of voices, review columns dominated by a member of the literary establishment writing a novel set in England's royal past, rather than its present;- with small publishers going to the wall, Mantel's publisher spaffing a large sum against the walls of Tower Bridge to publicise a novel that doesn't need it.Author M. John Harrison said in a 2012 interview: A good ground rule for writing in any genre is: start with a form, then undermine its confidence in itself. Ask what it's afraid of, what it's trying to hide – then write that. Mantel's mantra seems to be the opposite, adhering timidly to the confines of historical fiction with its spurious emphasis on historical fidelity.The first part of this novel, Wolf Hall, was published in 2009. Since then authors such as Claire-Louise Bennett, Anna Burns, Akwaeke Emezi, Eimear McBride, Isabel Waidner, Vesna Main, Valeria Luiselli, Ali Smith, Will Eaves, Derek Owusu, Gabriel Josipovici, Bernadine Evaristo, Colum McCann, Lucy Ellmann, Helen Oyeyemi, Rachel Cusk, Deborah Levy, Max Porter and Sara Baume and others have stretched the very boundaries of the English language novel. And Hilary Mantel’s response is simply to write a continuation of the same book. I can see why that is good for sales, but it doesn’t deserve literary accolades.Sally Rooney for boomers.
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  • Susanna - Censored by GoodReads
    January 1, 1970
    It feels like we've been waiting for this one forever, but I think it's "only" five years or so.I have never felt such kinship with G.R.R. Martin fans.April 2020: It's come!
  • Susan
    January 1, 1970
    Having read “Wolf Hall,” three times and “Bring Up the Bodies,” twice, I was both excited, and apprehensive, at reading this, final volume, in the trilogy. For we all know the ending and, from the very first page, we are aware of the threat of the axe, and of Henry’s capricious nature, as we open with the execution of Anne Boleyn. She died, Cromwell later muses, expecting to be saved. Does hope ever really leave us? Mantel combines brilliant writing with dark humour. When we come to Cromwell’s f Having read “Wolf Hall,” three times and “Bring Up the Bodies,” twice, I was both excited, and apprehensive, at reading this, final volume, in the trilogy. For we all know the ending and, from the very first page, we are aware of the threat of the axe, and of Henry’s capricious nature, as we open with the execution of Anne Boleyn. She died, Cromwell later muses, expecting to be saved. Does hope ever really leave us? Mantel combines brilliant writing with dark humour. When we come to Cromwell’s famous, last letter, to Henry – “mercy, mercy, mercy…” she has Cromwell write the word the second time, in case Henry, ‘should be distracted.’ We know, and Cromwell knows, the ‘Book of Henry,’ well. Even with Jane Seymour, who is the perfect wife; producing a son and not lingering long enough for Henry to become bored, Henry seems dissatisfied. By the time Anne of Cleves arrives, Henry is openly critical. There is a disastrous first meeting, leading to a litany of complaints – she does not sing, does not hunt, cannot speak English, she has an odd smell, he cannot bring himself… Like previous books, “The Mirror and the Light,” is full of dreams, and ghosts. However, the ghost of the Cardinal has left him, which is not, the reader feels, a good sign. There is intrigue and Court gossip and, as before, wonderful characters – including the brilliant Duke of Norfolk. Those involved are in favour, out of favour, battling for favour. Meanwhile, the female characters are more passive than previously; especially without Anne Boleyn. Lady Rochford lurks in the shadows and Catherine Howard hovers in a doorway. Watching a documentary with Hilary Mantel recently, she wrote that she thought of the ending of this book while packing her shopping in a well known supermarket. She cried. I did too. Not many novels have made me do so, but this trilogy – beautiful, moving, poignant – left me a sniffling mess. The ending is almost unbearable. The trilogy is a masterpiece.
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  • Roman Clodia
    January 1, 1970
    4.5 starsI'm going to keep this short as fans of the first two books won't need any urging to read this; and if you didn't love them, then this one won't change your mind. In fact, rather than a trilogy, this feels like the third chapter of one huge story opening as it does mere seconds after the ending of Bring Up the Bodies. I found this snarkier than the previous books as we're treated to more of Cromwell's inner commentary (listening to the audio book on my commute led to grins and embarrass 4.5 starsI'm going to keep this short as fans of the first two books won't need any urging to read this; and if you didn't love them, then this one won't change your mind. In fact, rather than a trilogy, this feels like the third chapter of one huge story opening as it does mere seconds after the ending of Bring Up the Bodies. I found this snarkier than the previous books as we're treated to more of Cromwell's inner commentary (listening to the audio book on my commute led to grins and embarrassing sniggering on the tube!), yet, at the same time, there's a palpable air of elegiac melancholy about this: ghosts are everywhere, and not just Cromwell but also Henry are haunted by their pasts and the deaths that leave their stains on their souls. This feels like a less tight story than that of Bodies, and there are a few places where it sags a little: the Pilgrimage of Grace, for example, since we only see it from the PoV of Cromwell who doesn't leave London. But the episodic nature of the narrative also contains many gems: Cromwell's visit to Mary with Norfolk and Charles Brandon; the rather bitchy portrait of Jane who is more concerned about her food than court machinations; the Meg Douglas/Thomas Howard affair. There's more attention to Henrician literature than before with the text regularly punctuated by the political poems and satires of Wyatt, instances from the Devonshire Manuscript, and the on going negotiations over an English bible.And the final 100 or so pages are a tour de force that deserve to win prizes by themselves alone:(view spoiler)[Mantel even manages to intimate the horrific bungling of Cromwell's execution by a drunk and inept axeman... (hide spoiler)].The prose feels slightly more experimental than in Wolf Hall as Mantel continues to focalise via Cromwell, but we still experience all the sumptuous textures and dangerous, febrile politics of the court even while attention is drawn to current parallels: religious fundamentalism, the vexed relations between England and Europe, expediency and betrayal in political life, the role of women in a patriarchy.Gorgeous writing, complex characterization, acute intelligence, literary flair and impressive research lightly worn add up to an immersive, sophisticated reading experience that has remade what we understand historical fiction to be. Oops, seems this wasn't such a brief review, after all!
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  • Leslie
    January 1, 1970
    There should never be a book review before it is actually published. I have enjoyed and appreciate Goodreads but very disappointed that they would allow comments on an unwritten book. Really? Apparently, some oversight is needed.
  • Annet
    January 1, 1970
    Finally it's announced!!! To be published on 5 March 2020, SO looking forward to it!
  • Iset
    January 1, 1970
    I feel like I have a love-hate relationship with Hilary Mantel’s Cromwell books, and that in the past I’ve perhaps been too generous in how I’ve rated them.I love Mantel’s attention to detail. She has picked apart Cromwell’s life in her research, and woven a story of vivid colours, from the most famous matters of state down to his family and home life. One feels that she knows the lanes of London where Cromwell walks, understands the earnestly held opinions of the day rather than trying to force I feel like I have a love-hate relationship with Hilary Mantel’s Cromwell books, and that in the past I’ve perhaps been too generous in how I’ve rated them.I love Mantel’s attention to detail. She has picked apart Cromwell’s life in her research, and woven a story of vivid colours, from the most famous matters of state down to his family and home life. One feels that she knows the lanes of London where Cromwell walks, understands the earnestly held opinions of the day rather than trying to force modern values on her historic characters, and has memorised the customs and culture; everything from scribbled poetry to popular dishes to a local village’s superstitions. This is probably her biggest strength, not just in this book but in the whole trilogy. Such intimate knowledge renders the world of Renaissance England with a high degree of authenticity and fidelity – at least, in comparison to other less strenuous novels with the same setting. Note that the two are not the same – authenticity and fidelity. By fidelity I refer to the facts known to history, and by authenticity I describe the willingness of the reader to believe the world that the story creates, to deem it plausible and not scoff in incredulity. This pleases me, both as a reader and a historian. That said, clocking in at 864 pages on Kindle, and, truly, packed with so much detail and digression into Cromwell’s past as well as his present, I can understand how it might be seen as too much for some.I hate Mantel’s structural eccentricities. I don’t think the choice of present tense was a good one, as I find it only adds confusion and makes meaning muddier here. In Wolf Hall, Mantel seemed to be allergic to using her protagonists name, leaving her readers flailing for which “he” was whom. This is something that she corrected in Bring Up the Bodies to “he, Cromwell”, and continues here, but while this elucidates scenes, it then renders “he” redundant and comes across as clumsy and maladroit. It doesn’t help that, in The Mirror and the Light in particular, Mantel diverges into stream-of-thought writing, not occasionally but frequently, delving into Cromwell’s consciousness in sudden reminiscences or connecting thoughts and subjects that are not immediately apparent to the reader. Like a river bursting its banks, this kind of writing feels like it lacks direction and is difficult for a reader to track. It can be effective when employed judiciously, but I thought it was overused. If you’ve read some of Mantel's other works outside of this trilogy, you’ll know that this isn’t common to her writing as a whole. I therefore can only assume that it is a deliberate stylistic choice Mantel made with this trilogy, perhaps in order to stand out from what others are doing and present something more unconventional. I have seen some praise this as “edgy” and therefore good. I myself am of the opinion that edgy does not necessarily equate to good, and frankly I find these peculiarities of structure to be bewildering and headache-inducing. Maybe it could work in another book; but it doesn’t work for me here.I love that Mantel takes on Cromwell as her protagonist. Cromwell has been a side character in a lot of novels, and he has often been villainised. To be fair, I definitely do not find everything the historical Cromwell did to be laudable, and certain things I would consider to be absolutely reprehensible. That said, however, I do not think that everything he did was driven by nefarious intent or had a bad outcome. Cromwell had his qualities, and in many ways he was a highly competent minister. His very rise encapsulates a key turning point in the Renaissance where merit began to be valued more highly than bloodright, and this revolution was something that princes found at once to their immense benefit, but also deeply threatening. I find that poor quality novels tend to reduce history down to stereotypical tropes, misunderstanding contemporary social mores, and painting some figures as moustache-twirling villains while raising up others onto pedestals of perfection. As a historian I’m aware that this is deeply unrealistic and fails to do justice to real people who once lived; but as a reader I’m just plain exasperated and tired of reading such a simplistic model which is boring, predictable, and not fun. Mantel gives Cromwell a modicum of justice for his achievements, and she manages to do so without creating a saint. Particularly in this book, Cromwell spends a good deal of time dwelling on his mistakes, failures, and the times when he caused injury to others.I hate the fact that Mantel does not treat other characters with the same degree of humanity and objectivity. Particularly the Boleyn family and their adherents. In Mantel’s version of events, Mark Smeaton was never tortured into making confession, merely locked inside a cupboard full of spiky Christmas ornaments. Come on. Are we really expected to believe such a bare-faced free pass? Mantel borders on becoming Cromwell’s apologist. In her version, Jane Parker, George Boleyn’s wife, is still the shrewish voyeur who bore false witness against the husband and sister-in-law she hated, the same Jane Parker you’ve seen or read about in a dozen other lazy stories which all ignore the considerable evidence that their marriage was amicable and that it was not Jane but another lady, the Countess of Worcester, who committed the deed. In Mantel’s version, Anne Boleyn is still driven purely by naked ambition, a scheming hussy who lost her virginity in France, her father power-hungry and her brother a fatuous boor. There is nothing of Anne’s unusually rigorous Renaissance education, the conviction of her reformed faith, or her initial disinclination to the king. There is nothing shown of her father’s many successes as ambassador on his own merit, long before either of his daughters caught Henry’s eye, or of her brother’s intelligence and talents. Mantel derides silly, frothy renderings of Henry’s court in fiction, with their 21st century attitudes and gross oversimplification of events and conflicts, but beyond her own research on Cromwell she repeats many of the most spurious, flimsy, and disproven myths about some of his peers.I would like to say that I have no misgivings about Mantel’s Cromwell trilogy and recommend it wholeheartedly. Her rich and human portrait of Cromwell is fresh and certainly appealing. And I feel under a lot of pressure to conform to majority opinion which has been dealing out 4 and 5 stars aplenty. But while these reviews praise Mantel’s genius, they seem to make little or no mention of her shortcomings. That is something I cannot do. 6 out of 10
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  • Henk
    January 1, 1970
    Pre-order come to daddy! 📚Fortunate to have taken up the Cromwell trilogy only very recently in anticipation for this book but the wait is still too long.
  • Melindam
    January 1, 1970
    Of course I know how it will end / ends / ended, BUT I so much wish it wasn't so!Mantel's Cromwell is just LARGER THAN LIFE!! :)“Even in the republic of virtue you need a man who will shovel up the shit.”Finally, finally I could start on the audiobook version of the novel. Even though I am still at the beginning, Thomas Cromwell's story and character as represented by Hilary Mantel, still continues to fascinate me. “As for the future, the king’s desires move swiftly and the law must run to keep Of course I know how it will end / ends / ended, BUT I so much wish it wasn't so!Mantel's Cromwell is just LARGER THAN LIFE!! :)“Even in the republic of virtue you need a man who will shovel up the shit.”Finally, finally I could start on the audiobook version of the novel. Even though I am still at the beginning, Thomas Cromwell's story and character as represented by Hilary Mantel, still continues to fascinate me. “As for the future, the king’s desires move swiftly and the law must run to keep up.”
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  • Kathleen
    January 1, 1970
    Thomas Cromwell is older and more tired in this third offering by Mantel. [Mantel won the Booker for each of her two previous books featuring Cromwell—Wolf Hall (2009) and Bring Up the Bodies (2012).] Mantel begins this volume with the death of Anne Boleyn, and Jane Seymour’s turn as queen. Lord Cromwell is at the peak of his career. He does an admirable job anticipating the wants and needs of a capricious Henry VIII. He has planted spies in the courts of England’s adversaries, particularly the Thomas Cromwell is older and more tired in this third offering by Mantel. [Mantel won the Booker for each of her two previous books featuring Cromwell—Wolf Hall (2009) and Bring Up the Bodies (2012).] Mantel begins this volume with the death of Anne Boleyn, and Jane Seymour’s turn as queen. Lord Cromwell is at the peak of his career. He does an admirable job anticipating the wants and needs of a capricious Henry VIII. He has planted spies in the courts of England’s adversaries, particularly the Spanish and the French. He has also targeted key players in the nobility to ensure that Henry maintains power. And lastly, he does what he can to promote the Reformation movement. Oh yes, and he also has to persuade a truculent Mary to submit to her father’s wish to exclude her from the line of succession, for Henry just might decide to kill her if she poses a threat to his reign.By necessity, there is a rich cast of characters that surround Cromwell as he works as Henry’s chief fixer. Perhaps because he came from humble beginnings as a son of an abusive blacksmith father, he is attuned to what benefits the nation rather than any particular noble. He is intent on taking wealth and power from the corrupt Roman Catholic Church and placing it with the state. While he is a natural politician—knowing when to flatter, when to offer money, and when to lie—he also accumulates more enemies than friends. So when Henry blames Cromwell for his fourth marriage to Anne of Cleves, those enemies are quick to conspire to bring about his downfall. Mantel’s brilliant writing brings this complicated man to life. Highly recommend.
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  • Dan
    January 1, 1970
    In April 1859, Charles Dickens began to release A Tale of Two Cities in chapters All the Year Round, his weekly literary magazine. As they were reading Dickens’ chapters every week, did the readers of 1859 readers recognize A Tale of Two Cities as a classic that would continue to be treasured for near two hundred years and likely more? Reading Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror and the Light, I felt that its publication is a similarly historic literary event. This third volume of Mantel’s Wolf Hall Tril In April 1859, Charles Dickens began to release A Tale of Two Cities in chapters All the Year Round, his weekly literary magazine. As they were reading Dickens’ chapters every week, did the readers of 1859 readers recognize A Tale of Two Cities as a classic that would continue to be treasured for near two hundred years and likely more? Reading Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror and the Light, I felt that its publication is a similarly historic literary event. This third volume of Mantel’s Wolf Hall Trilogy is magnificent novel, the strongest, most beautifully rendered, and the most tightly and carefully constructed of the three. It feels almost magical how Mantel, writing in the 2000s and 2010s, could fit contemporary English so convincingly and comfortably into the sixteenth century. Mantel’s not replicating sixteenths century’s usage, but her contemporary English, with her minor adjustments to vocabulary and structure, places us convincingly into Henry the VIII and Thomas Cromwell’s sixteenth century England.Mantel beautifully portrays Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII, Rafe Sadler, and Gregory Cromwell. I could quibble that some other important characters receive too short shrift, but perhaps the mystery and slipperiness of these characters fulfills Mantel’s intentions. And at almost 800 pages, who could complain about Mantel giving inadequate attention to any character?The Mirror and the Light, like Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, hosts a large cast of characters with complicated relationships, often shifting allegiances, and complex backstories. But its heart is a portrait of two unforgettable characters and an epochal contest between meritocracy and aristocracy. Ten stars, rounded down to five: an immediate classic
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  • Ana
    January 1, 1970
    The final chapter alone deserves all the stars in the world!! I’m not over it, don’t think I’d want to be. An absolutely phenomenal conclusion to the series. I am in awe of what Mantel has accomplished with Cromwell’s character… “What have I, but what my king gives me? Who am I, but who he has made me? All my trust is in him.” What does God see? Cromwell in the fifty-fourth year of his age, in all his weight and gravitas, his bulk wrapped in wool and fur? Or a mere flicker, an illusion, a spar The final chapter alone deserves all the stars in the world!! I’m not over it, don’t think I’d want to be. An absolutely phenomenal conclusion to the series. I am in awe of what Mantel has accomplished with Cromwell’s character… “What have I, but what my king gives me? Who am I, but who he has made me? All my trust is in him.” What does God see? Cromwell in the fifty-fourth year of his age, in all his weight and gravitas, his bulk wrapped in wool and fur? Or a mere flicker, an illusion, a spark beneath a shoe, a spit in the ocean, a feather in a desert, a wisp, a phantom, a needle in a haystack? If Henry is the mirror, he is the pale actor who sheds no lustre of his own, but spins in a reflected light. If the light moves he is gone.
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  • Minerva
    January 1, 1970
    "Farewell? A long farewell to all my greatnessThis is the state of man: today he puts forthThe tender leaves of hopes: tomorrow blossoms,And bears his blushing honours thick upon himThe third day comes a frost, a killing frost,And when he thinks, good easy man, full surelyHis greatness is a-ripening, nips his root,And then he falls, as I do. I have ventured,Like little wanton boys that swim on bladders,This many summers in a sea of glory,But far beyond my depth: my high-blown prideAt length brok "Farewell? A long farewell to all my greatnessThis is the state of man: today he puts forthThe tender leaves of hopes: tomorrow blossoms,And bears his blushing honours thick upon himThe third day comes a frost, a killing frost,And when he thinks, good easy man, full surelyHis greatness is a-ripening, nips his root,And then he falls, as I do. I have ventured,Like little wanton boys that swim on bladders,This many summers in a sea of glory,But far beyond my depth: my high-blown prideAt length broke under me, and now has left meWeary, and old with service, to the mercyOf a rude stream, that must for ever hide me.Vain pomp and glory of this world, I hate ye:I feel my heart new opened. O, how wretchedIs that poor man that hangs on princes' favours?There is betwixt that smile we would aspire to,That sweet aspect of princes, and their ruin,More pangs and fears than wars or women have:And when he falls, he falls like Lucifer,Never to hope again"Enter Cromwell, standing amazedShakespeare: The Life of King Henry the Eighth, Act 3, Scene 2
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  • Rebecca
    January 1, 1970
    784 pages?! No, wait, the library catalogue lists it as 883 pages. I am definitely going to have to do some clearing of the decks before I pick up my reserved copy next Friday...
  • Debbie Zapata
    January 1, 1970
    Mar 27 ~~ Wow. More thoughts asap.Mar 29 ~~ I waited until this book appeared, and then read the entire trilogy one right after the other, so I have been immersed in Cromwell's world since March 6 when I started reading Wolf Hall. I am still in mourning. Who would have thought a person could mourn a man who was supposedly a villain?!All I ever knew about Henry the VIII was his dismal marriage history. I knew the name Cromwell but I never understood what he did, or the general history of the time Mar 27 ~~ Wow. More thoughts asap.Mar 29 ~~ I waited until this book appeared, and then read the entire trilogy one right after the other, so I have been immersed in Cromwell's world since March 6 when I started reading Wolf Hall. I am still in mourning. Who would have thought a person could mourn a man who was supposedly a villain?!All I ever knew about Henry the VIII was his dismal marriage history. I knew the name Cromwell but I never understood what he did, or the general history of the times. I feel that after reading this trilogy I am more aware of a bit of history that probably would never have happened if Henry had been a different type of man, a different type of king. And if Cromwell had not been his right hand man.But of course, without all of this drama, there would have been no Elizabeth I on the throne, and no Great Britain as we know it. This kind of thing makes me understand the appeal of all of those stories that consider alternate histories. What would have happened (or not happened) IF.....But getting back to this book. This was by far the best of the three. Deeper, richer, with more history, more insights, more everything. I liked the first volume for its immediate connection to Cromwell, the second for illuminating life in the royal court, but this one I liked for everything. The intimate connection with Cromwell. The peeking behind the curtain into a king's every day habits of life. The politics, just as nasty as ever was and ever will be. The more detailed looks into Cromwell's past as imagined by Mantel, and so skillfully woven into the book that through his sleeping dreams and fevers we are reminded of scenes from the other two books. A person could probably read just this volume and know most details of the story, but your reading experience will be much much more rewarding if you dive in with the first volume and don't come up for air until you are finished with this one. I can't think of anything else to say except Well Done, Ms. Mantel. This book was very much worth the wait!!
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  • Sonya
    January 1, 1970
    Eagerly awaiting receiving this book in the mail.
  • John Banks
    January 1, 1970
    What a majestic conclusion to the Cromwell saga. From glorious passages that take one’s breath away with their brilliance to its grand architecture that throws intriguing and revealing light and shadow back on the previous two works; this novel is a finely wrought work of art. Mantel gives us a lesson in what the novel can achieve and for me this stands alongside works by my favourites (Tolstoy, Dickens, Steinbeck, Morrison, Zade Smith).The structure loops back on events from the earlier two boo What a majestic conclusion to the Cromwell saga. From glorious passages that take one’s breath away with their brilliance to its grand architecture that throws intriguing and revealing light and shadow back on the previous two works; this novel is a finely wrought work of art. Mantel gives us a lesson in what the novel can achieve and for me this stands alongside works by my favourites (Tolstoy, Dickens, Steinbeck, Morrison, Zade Smith).The structure loops back on events from the earlier two books with some beautifully haunting memory episodes. This has an effect of recasting and mirroring in a new light some of those earlier events, including the ways in which Cromwell experiences and recalls them. At points this remembering and recasting is quite subtle, almost a kind of historical consciousness playing out behind Cromwell's back or echoing back from the contemporary moment. These aren't just flashbacks but dissonant echoes and images of historical memory that float through the narrative, haunting it with their strangely unteethered presence. In many ways The Mirror and the Light is itself a mirror that casts the earlier books and my readings of them in a whole new light. For example, the An Occult History of Britain section from Wolf Hall sets up some really powerful images and metaphors of deeply ancient and mythic power that return in really interesting ways in Mirror & the Light that aren't at all laboured or heavy handed. Some wonderful images are at work across the three books to explore in our reading. For example, towards the conclusion as Cromwell faces his end: 'Sometimes his mind drifts away, as it must: far from this room, beyond the city walls, across the fields and into the forest. The cover is dense, as in the years before trees were cut down for houses and ships, and all the creatures now extinct are alive again, for good or ill; the beaver in the stream, the wolf gaining on you with his long stride. When a man does not know which path to take he scatters crumbs from the loaf he carries in his hand, but the birds swoop behind him and eat them. He takes off his shirt and tears it into strips, and ties a strip to a branch at each fork in the road, but the ogres who live deep in the wood tread after him and steal the linen to bind their wounds: for ogres are always fighting. He labours on, and talking tress snigger about him, hiding their expressions of contempt behind their leaves'. What a passage with its gorgeous meta resonances that reach back to the earlier novels as well as forward to us with a sly wink and nudge about the histories that have been told and written about this man Cromwell.'It is Putney that works away at him, distant but close. When he was weak with fever the past broke in, and now he has no defence against his memories, they recapitulate themselves any time they like: when he sits in the council chamber, words fall about him in a drizzling haze, and he finds himself wrapped in the climate of his childhood. He is a monk who descends the night stair, still wrapped in dreams, so that the shuffling feet of his breathren are transformed to the whisper of leaves in the forests of infancy: and like a hidden creature stirring from a leaf-bed, his mind stirs and turns, on a restless circuit. He tries to tether it (to now, this time, this place) but it will roam: scenting the staleness of soiled straw and stagnant water, the hot grease of the smith, horse sweat, leather, grass, yeast, tallow, honey, wet dog, spilled beer, the lanes and wharves of his childhood''What does God see? Cromwell in the fifty-fourth year of his age, in all his weight and gravitas, his bulk wrapped in wool and fur? Or a mere flicker, an illusion, a spark beneath a shoe, a spit in the ocean, a feather in a desert, a wisp, a phantom, a needle in a haystack? If Henry is the mirror, he is the pale actor who sheds no lustre of his own, but spins in a reflected light. If the light moves he is gone'Mantel is a magician; she has truly delivered with this finale. Yes it is long, but I truly savoured every page and would not wish it to be a sentence shorter. There are so many passages like those I quote above, packed with images and metaphors that I will no doubt return to as they craft the elusive meanings and reading experience of this work in so many directions. I have throughly enjoyed and marvelled at the reflected light Mantel's prose casts as Cromwell's historical consciousness; it has been a joy to follow the suble movement as that light of consciousness (character if you like) flickers from book to book, chapter to chapter, section to section. What a monumental achievement.An issue I do have is that the series is about those of power and privilege, essentially ignoring the underclass other than mostly as fodder and background colour for the voices and stories of the Kings, Queens, Lords and Ladies. I guess the fact that Cromwell rises from a lower class background in Putney does give this a different edge and Mantel, through Cromwell, does reflect on issues of class at varous points. But still it is very much a historical novel of privilege. I have though parked that concern somewhat as just wow, this is a glorious novel.
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