Dear Great Book Guru, The village is abuzz with talk of the latest production of the Silly Shakespeare Company- "The Real Housewives of King Henry the Eighth" which will be performed at Sea Cliff Beach on Saturday, September 21. I have never been able to keep Henry's wives straight and I'm sure I will be totally confused that night . Can you think of a book I could read in preparation for this play? Simply Not a Shakespeare Scholar
Dear Simply Not, I have just the book for you: BRING UP THE BODIES by Hilary Mantel. This prize-winning historical novel tells the story of Thomas Cromwell, a relatively obscure figure in the court of Henry the Eighth, but a man who wielded immense power and influence. It was Cromwell that arranged and help ended many of Henry's marriages. Mantel presents us with a fascinating study of one year 1535- a year in which Cromwell conspires with Henry to end the king's marriage to the lovely Anne Boleyn. Anne and Cromwell are both commoners who have reached enormous positions of importance in this world of royal pedigree but neither -rightfully- trusts the other. We witness the gradual ruination of Anne as Henry turns from her to Jane Seymour- aided of course by the politically astute Cromwell. While told from the perspective of Cromwell , the novel presents us with a stark portrait of sixteenth century England, filled with conspiracies, hypocrisies, scandals, and devastatingly brutal reversals of fortunes- somehow strangely reminiscent of our present time. Highly recommended!