Book Review: 2012 Shortlisted: Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies (Review # 6)

Bring_Up_The_BodiesRating: 3.5
Bring Up The Bodies
A Novel by Hilary Mantel
2012 / 407 Pages

Just as Jackie has mentioned in her review from earlier today, I am going to be providing a very brief review as there is nothing further I should rehash concerning what Bring Up The Bodies is about. Therefore, I will focus on my thoughts regarding the book and the reason for giving it the rating I did.

There is no doubt that Hilary Mantel is a fantastic, extremely accomplished writer. There is also no doubt that her presence in the Man Booker Prize 2012 long and short lists is beyond worthy. For me, the accomplished, polished and splendid writing contained in this novel warrants this to take the prize and any other prize it is nominated for. Alas, the 2012 Man Booker Prize judges will more than likely, in my opinion, not award this with the final prize. I feel this way due to the nature of the five other titles in the short list, and which truly is summed up well in this article featured in The Guardian and posted on the BookerMarks Facebook page today.

McCrum rightly states that “readability” is out the window this year in favour of “the power of prose”. I would take that one step further and claim that while, yes, readability is definitely out the window with many of these titles, the power of obscurity ranks higher than prose in this case, again, in my opinion.

And this would be the reason why, although Hilary Mantel’s work should be awarded for it is stunningly written, I found reading it alongside the other five novels shortlisted to be a bit of a jarring experience. There is nothing weird, obscure or off-putting about this novel at all. Mantel makes King Henry almost literally jump off the page, she describes his every manner with such vivid detail, I felt the man and all his girth was in the room with me! As Elizabeth and Jackie have said in their reviews, it is as if Mantel was physically present during this time. Normally, I would devour this book for all of its awesomeness, but after reading (please read more like deciphering) many of the other titles, this one was “hard” for me to read, or rather, truly let go and enjoy. Am I making any sense in this thinking?

I really did enjoy this book and for the the reasons I mentioned above about the vividness of the characters and setting, but I just didn’t feel it “fit in” with the other titles shortlisted in this 2012 competition. Therefore, I gave it a 3.5, which is of course higher than my rankings for Swimming Home (2.5), Umbrella (1) and Narcopolis (3) as Bring Up the Bodies most assuredly ranks higher than these books (most definitely!)  but in terms of the themes that I felt the Man Booker judges were  pushing us towards, this one was a definite outlier.

Of course, none of that means anything when the winner will be announced this Tuesday, as I do not think they will make Mantel a repeat Booker winner.


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