Friday, October 9, 2020

The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel



Hardback: 882 pages
Genre: Literary Fiction
Publisher: Harper Collins 2020
Source: Tywyn Public Library
First Sentence:  Once the queen's head is severed, he walks away. 
Favourite Quote: “We are all dying, just at different speeds.”
Review Quote: ‘It is a book not read, but lived’ Telegraph
Setting: England
Literary Awards: Shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2020 and Longlisted for the Booker Prize 2020

My Opinion: 

The much awaited finale to Hilary Mantel's trilogy about the life of Thomas Cromwell. The final years of his life, find his rise to power reaching its peak, but how long can he survive as there are plots of rebellion building at home and abroad as his enemies gather.

This final volume, takes us with the author's great enthusiasm for her subject, obvious on every page, from the death of Anne Boleyn right up to Cromwell's own demise. A brilliantly told engrossing tale as in the earlier volumes. The descriptive style of writing brings the period to life not only with wit but also a tremendous feeling of despair. Maybe this is because having studied this period at school one knows the ending. Despite the fact that Thomas Cromwell was not the most pleasant of men, he was still human and trying to carry out the wishes of the King as well as following his own dreams!

The few hundred pages at either end of the novel were certainly for me the most interesting as I found the parts in the middle where Cromwell was reminiscing distracting. Though not enough to stop this being a five star read I do wonder if it was necessary to include so much about the ghosts of his past. Maybe the idea was so this volume can be read alone, though I urge those that are considering reading to read the earlier volumes in the trilogy first. 

My Reviews For Parts 1 and 2 of Trilogy :  Wolf Hall   Bring Up the Bodies   

Précis Courtesy of Goodreads:

England, May 1536. Anne Boleyn is dead, decapitated in the space of a heartbeat by a hired French executioner. As her remains are bundled into oblivion, Thomas Cromwell breakfasts with the victors. The blacksmith’s son from Putney emerges from the spring’s bloodbath to continue his climb to power and wealth, while his formidable master, Henry VIII, settles to short-lived happiness with his third queen, before Jane dies giving birth to the male heir he most craves.

Cromwell is a man with only his wits to rely on; he has no great family to back him, no private army. Despite rebellion at home, traitors plotting abroad and the threat of invasion testing Henry’s regime to breaking point, Cromwell’s robust imagination sees a new country in the mirror of the future. But can a nation, or a person, shed the past like a skin? Do the dead continually unbury themselves? What will you do, the Spanish ambassador asks Cromwell, when the king turns on you, as sooner or later he turns on everyone close to him?

With The Mirror and the Light, Hilary Mantel brings to a triumphant close the trilogy she began with Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. She traces the final years of Thomas Cromwell, the boy from nowhere who climbs to the heights of power, offering a defining portrait of predator and prey, of a ferocious contest between present and past, between royal will and a common man’s vision: of a modern nation making itself through conflict, passion and courage.

Author Profile:

Hilary Mantel is the bestselling author of many novels including Wolf Hall, which won the Man Booker Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction. Bring Up the Bodies, Book Two of the Wolf Hall Trilogy, was also awarded the Man Booker Prize and the Costa Book Award. She is also the author of A Change of Climate, A Place of Greater Safety, Eight Months on Ghazzah Street, An Experiment in Love, The Giant, O'Brien, Fludd, Beyond Black, Every Day Is Mother's Day, and Vacant Possession. She has also written a memoir, Giving Up the Ghost. Mantel was the winner of the Hawthornden Prize, and her reviews and essays have appeared in The New York Times,The New York Review of Books, and the London Review of Books. She lives in England with her husband. 

Photograph and Biographical Information courtesy of the following sites.