Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This is on the longlist for the Booker Prize this year. I didn't read Wolf Hall, but if you know enough about English history, this book doesn't require a precursor. The Wolf Hall books chronicle the Tudor period by focusing on the life of Thomas Cromwell, and Bring Up the Bodies focuses on the time of Anne Boleyn as queen.
The book only gets three stars because it was just nothing new. There were moments of excellent writing, but I know the story. Nothing was surprising or different. Cromwell has always been a central figure and a villain, and having him as the focus wasn't enough of a different take.
I wanted to include a few bits here so you can get a sense of the writing. Honestly if you're not too familiar with the Tudors, these books would probably be five star.
"She looks as if she is seeing him for the first time and considering all sorts of uses for him, all sorts of possibilities, which he has not even thought of himself. To her victim the moment seems to last an age, during which shivers run up his spine. Though in fact the trick is quick, cheap, effective, and repeatable, it seems to the poor fellow that he is now distinguished among all men. He smirks. He preens himself. He grows a little taller. He grows a little more foolish."
"You can be merry with the king, you can share a joke with him. But as Thomas More used to say, it's like sporting with a tamed lion. You tousle its mane and pull its ears, but all the time you're thinking, those claws, those claws, those claws."