I loved Bring Up The Bodies, the sequel to Wolf Hall, winner of the Man Booker Prize. Plenty has been written on the subject of Henry VIII and his wives, but Mantel manages to make the tale of the Tudor tyrant fresh again.
This is accomplished principally from the use of Thomas Cromwell as the protagonist of both novels.
Cromwell, Secretary to the King, Master of the Rolls, Chancellor of Cambridge University, and deputy to the king as head of the church in England is not the usual hero of the Henry VIII road show. In fact, as the King’s appointed wrecker of royal wives, colleagues, and priests, he is usually portrayed as a one dimensional, evil henchman.
Mantel’s Cromwell, while not entirely sympathetic, is at least a real person. A good master and father, he is also a highly capable administrator, financier, and above all completely loyal to the King.
Bring Up The Bodies covers the last year of the reign of Anne Boleyn, and Cromwell’s active role in her demise and the subsequent ascension of Jane Seymour.
(I have not read Wolf Hall. If you know a little about the court of Henry VIII, it isn’t necessary to have read Wolf Hall to enjoy Bring Up The Bodies.)