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The Mirror and the Light: Longlisted for the Booker Prize 2020 Paperback – 5 March 2020
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|Paperback, 5 March 2020||
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- Publisher : Fourth Estate (5 March 2020)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 912 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0008366624
- ISBN-13 : 978-0008366629
- Dimensions : 20 x 14 x 4 cm
- Customer Reviews:
‘Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall novels make 99 per cent of contemporary literary fiction feel utterly pale and bloodless by comparison’ The Times
‘Hilary Mantel has written an epic of English history that does what the Aeneid did for the Romans and War and Peace for the Russians. We are lucky to have it.’ Sunday Telegraph
‘Very few writers manage not just to excavate the sedimented remains of the past, but bring them up again into the light and air so that they shine brightly once more before us. Hilary Mantel has done just that.’ Simon Schama, Financial Times
‘A masterpiece that will keep yielding its riches, changing as its readers change, going forward with us into the future’ Guardian
‘Ambitious, compassionate, clear-eyed yet emotional, passionate and pragmatic, The Mirror & the Light lays down a marker for historical fiction that will set the standard for generations to come’ Independent
‘It’s the crowning glory of a towering achievement’ Mail on Sunday
‘Very few writers manage not just to excavate the sedimented remains of the past, but bring them up again into the light and air so that they shine brightly once more before us. Hilary Mantel has done just that’ Financial Times, Simon Scharma
‘This is a must-read’ Good Housekeeping
‘On closing the book I wept as I’ve not wept over a novel since I was a child . . . Mantel struck her spear against the flint of Thomas Cromwell, and lit such a candle in England as will never go out’
Telegraph, Sarah Perry,
‘A masterpiece . . . Mantel has redefined what the historical novel is capable of . . . Taken together, her Cromwell novels are, for my money, the greatest English novels of this century’ Observer, Stephanie Merritt
Longlisted for the Booker Prize 2020
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Top reviews from Australia
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Be that as it may, Hilary Mantel has performed fabulously in combining the uneven historical record with her lively and sympathetic imagination to bring us a rounded, complex portrait of a rounded, complicated man. The range of matters that Cromwell took in hand is simply dizzying, and it is only recently that writers have come to consider him in all of them. (As an example, writers about his work in civil administration have tended to overlook his activities in the formation of an English church, its doctrines and practices, and vice versa.)
Mantel's Cromwell is stuffed full of diverse aptitudes - to a degree that would seem absurd if we did not have the historical records to show it. He may not be the villain of his pre-Elton reputation, but neither is he a saint. Particularly in this third book, we see examples of his illimitable ambition; his growing frankness in showing his impatience with those (no matter how exalted their position or their family) who, by their stupidity or their malice, get in the way of his plans; his lack of grace in asserting his rights over others (for example his neighbour at Austin Friars); his lack of grace in asserting his might over others' rights (for example his holding onto the Rolls House after relinquishing the post of Master of the Rolls); his apparently unquenchable appetite for all the trappings of wealth, especially land. These all give ammunition to old enemies, and create new ones. And the reader fears for Cromwell as (s)he reads—for there can surely be no reader who does not start the book already knowing how it will end: with Cromwell on the scaffold, attainted and executed for treason. For that matter, Cromwell himself is conscious of this risk even as his prince is elevating him to the greatest heights.
At the same time we see Cromwell protégés — men who owe their careers to him — grow into statesmen in their own right, step out from his shadow and (necessarily) begin to diverge from him.
Mantel's Cromwell does not show much emotion. But he has his obsessions and preoccupations beyond his work. He keeps returning, in his mind, to incidents and relationships from all eras of his life. He absorbs and revolves snatches of song, verses of poets both good (Thomas Wyatt) and bad (Thomas Howard), snippets of French, German, Latin, Italian. In Mantel's writing there is much humour, much that is poetic in all but form. There are descriptive passages ; there are telling accumulations of detail (that in anyone else's hands would come across as mere lists of the fruits of the author's research). There are visitations by the ghosts of Cromwell's past. And despite this variety the result is coherent and satisfying.
This may be the best book of the trilogy. Each of the other two won the Man Booker prize. I think she deserves to get the hat trick with this one.
The author is often verbose, vague, confusing and unfocussed to no positive effect.
You often don't know what she's talking about, or who she's referring too, and it turns out to be of no importance anyway as you can easy flip through the many pages of rubbish. The 1st book in this trilogy is particularly poor writing imo. No 2 is much better and this 3rd is somewhere between the two.
Mantel's novels are of course saved by the compelling nature of the real life characters and actual history.
I agree with others that this 3rd novel is 40-50% too long but you can say the same about all of this trilogy.
This fault is easily fixed by flipping through Mantel's tripe and returning to the actual story.
It's a great story with fabulous characters that even Mantel's poor writing style was unable to ruin.
However <i>The Mirror and the Light</I> is just too long! It could easily have been the same length as the first two books in the series and the story-telling would not have suffered. As it is, this last volume just becomes hard work, I struggled to get it finished.
A bit of a shame.
26 August 2020
Top reviews from other countries
Also, Cromwell seemed different in this book. I am not even sure I can articulate how, just that the character somehow felt different, not the same old familiar Cromwell from the first two books.
In addition, some of the characters who loomed larger in the first two books were minor players in this novel, which was a little disappointing as I had hoped to see more of them and how they might react to the changing events. I realise the author had to tell the story through the eyes of characters close to events and that she didn’t always have a free hand, but I still felt disappointed that some of the central characters from the first two novels barely featured and that I didn’t really get any insight into what they might have felt or thought.
The writing was beautiful and I cannot deny the author’s writing talent or the amount of historical research that went into producing such a faithful recreation of the period. However, I have just been left feeling a little underwhelmed at the end of the day. This could be my fault for perhaps expecting too much from the book, or maybe I unconsciously had my own opinion of what I expected to read in the novel and because the result is different to that I am unjustifiably feeling disappointed in it? I don’t know to be honest. I just didn’t feel the burning love for this book that I did for the others in the trilogy. Maybe I will revisit it next year and go cover to cover again and change my opinion?
However, at the moment I feel that while it is a very good book it didn’t, for me, reach the same lofty heights as its predecessors. I hate to write that because I wanted to adore it, but I didn’t and that’s that.
The secret to reading a Mantel "Cromwell" novel is to suspend all rules of normal fiction-writing and bask in the flow. But don't apply that technique to her dreadful early work, A Place of Greater Safety, which I think is one of the most self-indulgent books I've ever valiantly ploughed through and thoroughly disliked. (A case of "twice as good at half the length" if ever there was one.) She has come a long, long way since then, and emerged on the side of the angels.
I shall give myself a few days' rest and then read "Mirror" entirely for the prose rather than the structure of the story, and let myself wallow in some of the sublime writing and insights. Of course there are tedious or confusing passages - nothing is perfect - but this is pretty damned brilliant and in a class of its own. Well worth waiting for...
1. Family trees..... E-readers have lower resolution so all books with maps, diagrams and family trees suffer from poor clarity of these items. If the work can withstand this then I buy it. I often download a book sample to see first. In this case as it invariably is, the book is worth reading regardless. If the illustrations need scrutinised then you can download a copy of the book into the kindle applicator on your PC, browser, or tablet. The family trees are perfectly viewable on them as they are on my Kindle Voyage.
2. Price. Cheaper is better however if you cannot wait for the price to fall on release of the paperback then you have a choice of the hardback or the ebook (50p more at the time of writing). I chose ebook this time and feel that launch price is worth paying for a book this good, from an author of such skill. The author and publisher deserve to be rewarded for their work. I am grateful for being given the chance to revisit the setting and the characters.
I intend to update this review on completing the book.