I'm a day late weighing in on this round of the Tournament of Books, but this one is an easy one for me. I never finished HHhH. I appreciate it for its unique form, and have even referred people to it who I think might find it interesting, but it is always for its technique, and never for its story. Call me a traditionalist, but I want a novel to be a novel. HHhH is a narrative about a researcher writing a novel. Kind of. I couldn't make myself read it (past page 50, I really did put time in trying), but I have heard from other readers that the author never lets that angle go, and his presence is prevalent throughout.
Bring Up the Bodies is a solid book, although I wasn't happy for it to win the Booker prize last year. I really thought a sequel, which it really is, couldn't possibly have enough to offer the judges compared to some of the novels I enjoyed more. I never read Wolf Hall, which is the first book telling the story of the Tudors through the eyes of Thomas Cromwell. From all reports, the storytelling issues in Wolf Hall have been fixed in Bring Up the Bodies, and they must have been because I never felt confused as to who was telling the story or where we were. Then again, it didn't exactly have anything new in it for me. I know about the Tudors. I took English literature for two semesters in college and one semester of the History of England to 1650. I felt quite covered in this subject area. I don't intentionally read historical fiction as it is, so it felt a little self-punishing to read historical fiction and not learn anything.
The story is well told, I enjoyed the writing, and the pace is engaging for the length. While I'm not sure I'll advance Mantel in the next round, for this one, finishing a book over one I couldn't does tell it all.