Mantel Does It Again

It wasn’t so long ago that many said Americans wouldn’t sit still for a 560-page novel which requires some knowledge of British history and a 98-person character list just to keep all the players straight. Well, we did, putting Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall on the NYT list for 6 weeks (and on the extended list for 12 more). Not only has the sequel, Bring Up the Bodies (Macmillan/Holt), landed on the NYT list during its first week on sale, but it landed at #3, besting Wolf Hall, which peaked at #7  (it came out during the fall season, however, which it a more competitive period).

The new book has also given the earlier one a boost; the paperback of Wolf Hall is back on to that list at #20.

Reviewers, however, say the second book even more appealing than the first. The Washington Post explains,

One key difference between Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies is that the latter mostly lacks the poetic reveries that Cromwell allows himself in the former. This is largely a product of the sequel’s compressed timeline of barely nine months, in particular the three weeks leading up to Anne’s execution.

Or, as Time magazine’s Lev Grossman puts it,

The rush of Bring Up the Bodies comes on even faster than that of Wolf Hall ­­— there’s none of what Holden Caulfield would have called the ‘David Copperfield crap.’ no childhood traumas and formative life lessons.

Mantel is at work on the third book in the trilogy, The Mirror and the Light. She tells the Washington Post , “I want to combine aspects of both books: the fast turn of events that you have in Bring Up the Bodies, but also the interior voice of Cromwell, the spiritual aspect that you saw more of in Wolf Hall.”

Libraries that ordered the sequel conservatively now face long hold lists.

For those interested in a biography of Anne Boleyn, Hilary Mantel herself recommended Alison Weir’s The Lady in the Tower (2010), in a review in the New York Times.

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