The Mirror & the Light

(Thomas Cromwell #3)

paperback, 480 pages

Published May 3, 2021 by Picador.

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5 stars (1 review)

With The Mirror & the Light, Hilary Mantel brings to a triumphant close the trilogy she began with her peerless, Booker Prize-winning novels, 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.

The story begins in 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, 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, …

2 editions

Is there a word for that grief you feel when you've finished reading an amazing book?

5 stars

(my first book review here) I've just recently finished this magnificent book, with is the 3rd in the recently deceased Hilary Mantel's Thomas Cromwell trilogy, which began with Wolf Hall. It is historical fiction, and reading the series has led me to reading more about Henry VIII's period; while I read a lot about Shakespeare's period when I was in school, I had never read much about the history just a few decades before that. As with the first two books, the writer's/main character's voice is perfect throughout, letting us see his world and his own complex character. Like Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, this is a remarkably feminist book for one that keeps women largely to the periphery--we see how hard women's lives are more by inference than by direct statement, because even though Cromwell is a brilliant man, he is still blinkered by his culture. I …