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Bring up the Bodies
Wolf Hall

Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel Book Cover of Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel

The sequel to Hilary Mantel's 2009 Man Booker Prize winner and New York Times bestseller, Wolf Hall 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?. (From the publisher.)


1. The novel starts off with a description of hawks soaring in the sky and swooping in to slaughter their prey. In the same manner, the novel closes off with an image of a fox attacking a hen coop. What is the significance of these animals and what do they symbolize?
2. How has Cromwell’s upbringing influenced him to become the shrewd and ambitious man that he is? What is the significance of Cromwell refusing to adopt the coat of arms belonging to a noble Cromwell family even as he widens the chasm between his father and himself? How does Cromwell view family and how is it different from his own experience growing up?
3. How is King Henry VIII described in the novel? Is he self-serving, or does he truly believe in the validity of his actions? Does he come over as a sympathetic character?
4. Katherine is accused by Cromwell of causing the split within the church, and of endangering her daughter Mary, by her stubborn resistance to the King’s wishes. Do you view Katherine as a relentless and self-indulgent queen or is she noble for staying true to her beliefs?
5. Cromwell believes that England “will keep spiraling backwards into the dirty past” unless blunders are forgotten and old quarrels ended. How does this belief influence his actions in trying to build a new England? Does the king help or hinder him in this urge for renewal? How far are Cromwell’s actions unselfish, and how far are they self-serving?
6. King Henry had fawned over all three women (Katherine, Anne, Jane) at one point in time. His past actions indicate that he loved his former wives, yet each affair proves temporary. How does Henry view love? Why do the women in the novel endeavor to wear the “poisoned ring?”
7. There is enormous power in a woman’s gaze. How do the women in this novel utilize their feminine wiles to their advantage? What effect do they have on men subject to their lure, and what does this tell you about women’s power over their male counterparts
8. Birth and is a major conceit throughout the novel. As “nails give birth to nails,” are children the product of their parents? Consider the parent-child relationships in the novel. What influence do parents have on their progeny?
9. When the King is thought to be dead after a jousting accident, there is a sudden rush to claim the crown. Are the players idealists, attempting to realize their political and religious ideals for England, or are they simply interested in getting power for themselves?’
10. Anne Boleyn is accused of committing adultery and even incest. Could there be any truth in these accusations, or are they complete fabrications by her enemies? How does she change once she realizes she is in danger?’
11. Cromwell seems very protective of Wyatt and saves him from death, even though he is widely suspected of being one of Anne’s lovers. Why does Cromwell feel such a strong need to defend him when he vehemently accuses others of being the Queen’s bedfellows? What sets Wyatt apart from the other men portrayed in the novel? What have Wyatt and Cromwell in common?’
12. Does the novel make you reconsider your view of the Tudors?
13. The story concludes with Cromwell’s claim that there are no endings, only beginnings. The country now has a new queen and a new leading family. What does this mean for England’s future? What do you think Cromwell’s role will be in the new order?
14. The execution of Anne Boleyn is one of the most frightening moments in English history. Anne’s last words are scripted to appease the King. What do you think would have been Anne’s last words had there not been any consequences?

These questions are provided by the Publisher.

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Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel Book Cover of Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

Read by Tracy June 2010 who recommended it as an historical romp through Britain in the 1500's and is based around the life of Thomas Cromwell and his rise to prominence during the reign of Henry VIII's. There is a lot of discussion points in how Cromwell modernised Britain, although he himself became wealthy which could be seen as some as the opposite to what he set out to do. This book is probably more suited towards the older book group because of the history and Mantel has assumed some knowledge of the era (these comments are from the Publisher). Click here to read the full book review.


1. What does Holbein's portrait capture about Thomas Cromwell's character that even Cromwell, himself, recognizes? What kind of man is Cromwell? In the rapacious world of Wolf Hall, do you find him a sympathetic character, or not?
2. What effect did Cromwell's upbringing have on his character and his later views about the privileged society that permeates the court? How does he feel about the aristocracy and its insistence on ancient rights.
3. What does Cromwell mean when he tells his son that "it's all very well planning what ou will do in six months, what you will do in a year, bjut it's no good at all if you don't have a plan for tomorrow"?
4. Comment on Cromwell's observation regarding an earl that "The world is not run from where he thinks. Not from his border fortresses, not even from Whitehall. The world is run from Antwerp, from Florence, from places he never imagined." What does Cromwell mean...and in what sense is his statement a very modern view of the world?
5. Why does Cromwell dislike the Catholic clergy? What are his motives for helping Henry marry Anne Boleyn and sever ties to the Pope? What larger goals does he hope to achieve in helping ? Are they selfless...or selfish?
6. If you are familiar with Thomas More, especially through A Man for All Seasons, were you surprised by this book's treatment of him?
7. How does Cromwell perceive Anne Boleyn? How does she come across in this book? Consider his observation when she is in the presence of the king's friends: "Anne is brittle in their company, and as ruthless with their compliments as a house-wife snapping the necks of larks for the table." Also talk about the danger he sees for Anne as he thinks, "Any little girl can hold the key to the future."
8. Do you know the fate of Cromwell, some years after the book's ending? If you don't know, can you surmise? If you do, how does it color your reading of Wolf Hall?
9. Other than the estate of the Seymour family, what is the significance of the book's title, Wolf Hall??
10. In terms of the writing, a number of reviewers felt the difficulty of too many Thomases and too many he's—that Mantel didn't make the effort to help readers through the confusion. Do you agree? Did you find other difficulties in reading the work...or did you find her prose clear... and engaging? How else might you describe Mantel's writing?

These questions are provided by LitLovers.

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