What to say about this book? Mantel’s skill with words make mine seem utterly inadequate to express just how fantastic this book and the entire Cromwell trilogy is.
The Mirror and the Light opens after the execution of Ann Boleyn and deals with the period from then until Cromwell’s death. This Cromwell is somewhat older and more experienced, and can see the sands shifting beneath his feet as he’s no longer able to give Henry what he wants, when he wants it, and the court soon starts manoeuvring to get this common upstart out of their midst.
Mantel takes what could be completely confusing – the political machinations of various factions of not only the court but of European royalty and their constantly shifting alliances – and makes something utterly compelling and very human out of what my school’s history teachers made sound incredibly dry and dusty.
Mantel also makes it quite clear how someone like Cromwell, who had been so outstandingly competent at everything he turned his hand to, could read Henry so wrongly. Blinded by the honours being lavished upon him virtually up until the end, his past successes would never matter with a king who was the very epitome of what have you done for me lately, and Mantel also skilfully illustrated why the relationships between Cromwell and the court were so easy to turn towards railroading him in the way he had railroaded so many before him.
I’m so utterly in love with how Mantel writes that I’m now trying to get my hands on everything else she has ever written. You can’t get higher praise from me than that.