A novel of the final four years in the life of Thomas Cromwell and the court of Henry VIII, The Mirror & the Light is historical fiction, but like Mantel’s earlier books in the trilogy, Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, it bears no resemblance to traditional historical fiction. There are no dazzling descriptions of the clothes or the palaces, no upstairs-downstairs shenanigans, no comfortable glossing over the era’s grotesque traditions. Just hard, cruel power and politics.
The son of a blacksmith, Cromwell has risen well above his station (which his aristocratic enemies never tire of reminding him) to vast wealth and influence. He is the King’s fixer, confidant, and match maker. Given the King’s petulant personality, it is a precarious position and lonely too.
Still a man of action, Cromwell is rather melancholy in this final novel of the series. A fitting accompaniment to Cromwell’s ruminations, Mantel’s graceful prose moseys along as well. (754 pages)
I dawdled over this final installment, reluctant to face Cromwell’s inevitable demise. Because for all his murderous faults, Mantel makes Cromwell a sympathetic character.
What Other Reviewers Say
The New York Times: “The Mirror & the Light is the triumphant capstone to Mantel’s trilogy on Thomas Cromwell…The world is blotted out as you are enveloped in the sweep of a story rich with conquest, conspiracy and mazy human psychology…Mantel is often grouped with writers of historical fiction, [but] the more apt, and useful, comparison might be with Robert Caro, the biographer of Robert Moses and Lyndon Johnson, the great anatomizer of political power.”
Who Wrote It
Hilary Mantel is the author of fourteen books and the two-time winner of the Man Booker Prize for her bestselling novels Wolf Hall and its sequel Bring Up the Bodies. Sales for both books have reached over five million copies worldwide.