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The Mirror and the Light

The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel

As seen:

  • Women's Prize for Fiction 2020
  • Booker Prize 2020

By Hilary Mantel

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1 review

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England, 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, Thomas 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, Jane Seymour. Cromwell is a man with only his wits to rely on; he has no great family to back him, no private army.

Despite rebellion at home, traitors plotting abroad and the threat of invasion testing Henry’s regime to breaking point, Cromwell’s robust imagination sees a new country in the mirror of the future.

But can a nation, or a person, shed the past like a skin?

Do the dead continually unbury themselves? What will you do, the Spanish ambassador asks Cromwell, when the king turns on you, as sooner or later he turns on everyone close to him? With The Mirror and the Light, Hilary Mantel brings to a triumphant close the trilogy she began with 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.


11 Aug 2023

The final title in Mantel's trilogy charting the life and death of Thomas Cromwell. The book is beautifully imagined and Mantel has meticulously researched Cromwell's history, from his minor interactions to world -changing manoeuvring.

I would highly recommend this title, as the reader is shown a version of Cromwell that is deeply compelling, at once sympathetic but never sentimental. We are shown both his vulnerabilities and core of steel, as he intricately curates the information and knowledge fed to Henry VIII and attempts to guide Henry in a direction that will protect both their positions.

Mantel's final work is outstanding; detailed, gripping and utterly believable.

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