Fludd (1989): Hilary Mantel

★★★½

As I started this book, I had troubling flashbacks to my GCSE studies of Hard Times. The village of Fetherhoughton, where the action of Fludd takes place, has grown up around the cotton mill industry and a grimmer, bleaker, more relentlessly depressing place would be hard to find. Founded in the smoke and soot of the Industrial Revolution, the village has managed to avoid all the benefits of modernity and, in the 1950s, maintains a kind of moorland isolation.

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Bring up the Bodies (2012): Hilary Mantel

★★★★ ½

Like many other people (the vast majority of the British public, it seems), I thoroughly enjoyed Wolf Hall and was thrilled when I heard that Hilary Mantel was writing a sequel. I’m pleased to report that Bring up the Bodies offers another satisfying dose of Elizabethan intrigue and treachery, told in Mantel’s strikingly pared-back prose. She focuses not on sets, costumes and locations, but on the events that unfold, the relationships that form and fade between the members of the court, and the man who stands to one side, watching and weighing them.

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