BOOK REVIEWS – Man on Wire & Bring Up the Bodies

Hello! Due to the fact that I have read few books recently, as each installment in the Thomas Cromwell Trilogy takes me a considerable amount of time to read, I decided to write two reviews in one post. I thought it would be somewhat more exciting than two brief posts dedicated to each book.

*If you wish to discover resources concerning the Black Lives Matter movement, I have written a post exclusively focusing on the movement. I continue to contribute additional resources to the post upon discovery.

*The summaries, as always, are from Goodreads.*

MAN ON WIRE by: Philippe Petit – A novel *3.75/5 stars*

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Summary:

More than a quarter-century before September 11, 2001, the World Trade Center was immortalized by an act of unprecedented daring and beauty. In August 1974, a young Frenchman named Philippe Petit boldly—and illegally—fixed a rope between the tops of the still-young Twin Towers, a quarter mile off the ground. At daybreak, thousands of spectators gathered to watch in awe and adulation as he traversed the rope a full eight times in the course of an hour. In Man on Wire, Petit recounts the six years he spent preparing for this achievement. It is a fitting tribute to those lost-but-not-forgotten symbols of human aspiration—the Twin Towers.

Review:

I expected the exploration of Petit’s most celebrated high-wire act between the Twin Towers to be more prevalent in Creativity: The Perfect Crime. I was therefore overjoyed when I began Man on Wire, which specifically follows his preparations and eventual performance on the morning of August 7, 1974. However, I found the story somewhat disappointing for various reasons. Firstly, I found that it predominantly followed the relentless organizing and reorganizing of plans. While that is indeed what would be necessary for an illegal expedition (the “coup,” as dubbed by Petit) such as this one, the pacing of the book certainly suffered; the novel became exceptionally prolonged and wearisome.

Secondly, the majority of the book followed a frenetic (more so than usual), exhausted, and frustrated Philippe Petit. Due to his unceasing disappointment and apprehension, there was an unfortunate absence of humour and eccentricity (the latter, however, was present in a more subtle way: reflected in the entirety of his plan) in Man on Wire, which are two attributes I have grown to greatly appreciate about Petit. I did, nonetheless, feel immensely exhilarated while reading his first-hand account of his performance across the wire. The way in which he described his walk was purely intoxicating.

Creativity: The Perfect Crime was an eloquent book imbued with amusement. Man on Wire, however, felt especially rigid and strained. While I do understand that the tone of the novel was an honest portrayal of the months preceding the walk, it was neither an entirely pleasant nor amusing reading experience (which is precisely what I was desiring).

I also wish to remark on the fact that I found the rigging terminology particularly challenging to understand, which at times prevented immersion and provoked confusion.

Although I do believe my reading experience was largely tainted by the current state of affairs (an excuse I have grown accustomed to using), I cannot help feeling particularly saddened by the degree to which I enjoyed this book.

BRING UP THE BODIES by: Hilary Mantel – #2 in the Thomas Cromwell Trilogy *4.5/5 stars*

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Summary:

Though he battled for years to marry her, Henry VIII has become disenchanted with the audacious Anne Boleyn. She has failed to give him a son, and her sharp intelligence and strong will have alienated his old friends and the noble families of England.

When the discarded Katherine, Henry’s first wife, dies in exile from the court, Anne stands starkly exposed, the focus of gossip and malice, setting in motion a dramatic trial of the queen and her suitors for adultery and treason.

At a word from Henry, Thomas Cromwell is ready to bring her down. Over a few terrifying weeks, Anne is ensnared in a web of conspiracy, while the demure Jane Seymour stands waiting her turn for the poisoned wedding ring. But Anne and her powerful family will not yield without a ferocious struggle. To defeat the Boleyns, Cromwell must ally himself with his enemies. What price will he pay for Annie’s head?

Review:

Surprisingly, I found myself eager to return to the brilliance of Hilary Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell Trilogy, by means of the second installment, Bring Up the Bodies. I had expected this novel to be wildly fast-paced and a fairly thrilling read. However, I was somewhat disappointed. As I began, I found it considerably difficult to become absorbed in the narrative once more, after having previously finished Man on Wire. To contribute to matters, the political element grew increasingly more demanding within the first chapter. Naturally I felt incredibly exasperated, for I had expected to feel a greater confidence and understanding, given my read of Wolf Hall. That, however, proved to be merely a dangerous false sense of security. As I begin the final installment of the trilogy, The Mirror and the Light, I will be sure to mentally prepare myself in advance.

As with Wolf Hall, I believe I would have appreciated Bring Up the Bodies‘ narrative and its dramatic events to a greater degree had I been more willing to dedicate longer stretches of time to reading. My reluctance to read large portions at a time (aside from the fact that that would have been exceptionally time-consuming), however, was in part owing to the slight repetitive aspect of the novel. It was clear, to a certain extent, what the conclusion would entail and I was therefore less inclined to read for long periods of time (I have to confess, I tend to also grow fairly bored and crave a different activity, for I can read the Cromwell Trilogy for only so long at a time).

Furthermore, while I have thoroughly questioned the necessity of numerous seemingly insignificant characters included in the extensive cast throughout the trilogy, I feel as if my queries are most valid concerning Bring Up the Bodies. Mantel explicitly stated that she omitted several characters from this novel, so as to prevent additional, needless confusion. Although I trust she knows which characters should be included and which excluded, there were particular characters whose presence felt laughably expendable. Granted, I understand a story can comprise numerous unnecessary characters for the sole purpose of crafting a narrative. However, this trilogy is not merely a narrative; it is to a greater extent, I believe, a retelling of Thomas Cromwell’s time serving as Henry VIII’s chief assistant under the latter’s reign. Therefore, it leaves me questioning the validity of specific characters’ inclusion, as well as the decision to omit several characters who, according to Mantel’s author’s note, were rumoured to have contributed to Anne Boleyn’s fall from power (which was a significant aspect of this novel). I do, however, have complete faith in Hilary Mantel.

I am pleased to have found Mantel’s writing relatively less challenging throughout Bring Up the Bodies, having familiarized myself with it in Wolf Hall. Its mesmerizing quality was ever-present throughout the novel, particularly during the execution scenes. I was inexpressibly fascinated by her writing’s eloquence, accompanied by its powerful, piercing quality. The execution scenes were shocking yet wholly electrifying. I admire Mantel’s consistency: her prose has remained remarkably elegant throughout the trilogy thus far.

Although it is a fair assumption to believe I did not entirely enjoy Bring Up the Bodies, I have to refute that. While I find it rather easy to describe the numerous, yet quite minor, aspects of the trilogy that continue to frustrate me (and challenge me intellectually), I did enjoy Bring Up the Bodies very much. In fact, I am currently reading The Mirror and the Light and am pleased to report that I am, so far, enjoying it immensely!

Please note: I am writing this review several weeks after completing Bring Up the Bodies, and while I have notes, my thoughts have somewhat blended with those of Wolf Hall. (I normally procrastinate writing reviews—especially, it seems, for the books in the Cromwell Trilogy, as I find those reviews particularly difficult to write.) I apologize!

Thank you for reading!

ava

2 thoughts on “BOOK REVIEWS – Man on Wire & Bring Up the Bodies”

    1. Unfortunately, I think it was.😕 The movie was much more interesting and captivating. Philippe himself was more energetic and delightful to watch (though, admittedly, a bit mad—obviously)!

      Like

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