The Mirror & the Light by Hilary Mantel

The Mirror & the Light is the final part of Hilary Mantel’s trilogy about Thomas Cromwell, following Wolf Hall and Bring Up the BodiesIt is fictional, but based on fact, and tells the story of the final years of Cromwell’s life, working for an increasingly erratic King Henry VIII.

The Mirror & the Light follows straight on from where Bring Up the Bodies left off. Cromwell is promoted again to Lord Privy Seal and he and his three boys – son Gregory, nephew Richard and his ward Rafe Sadler – are all integral parts of the king’s household.

Anne Boleyn has been beheaded and the king is ready to marry his third queen, Jane Seymour. With the king believing both of his previous marriages to be void, the question arises of who should be his rightful heir.

Thomas Cromwell is low born, with no great family behind him. At every turn, there are noblemen trying to undermine and belittle him, feeling he has no right to serve the king. But the king trusts his judgement in everything from rebellions abroad and closer to home, who should be his rightful heir and who should be his next wife.

When Queen Jane dies within days of giving birth, Cromwell must search across Europe for a new queen – one which can given England a powerful ally in the world. But when the new queen, Anne of Cleves, proves to be the wrong choice for the king, will he blame Cromwell?

Cromwell has overseen many executions in his time serving the king. He has seen how the king can turn on people who were once close to him. In the end, the king turns on Cromwell, like he has done to so many others before him.

This is another brilliant read from Hilary Mantel and, if you’ve read Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, I would definitely recommend it. And, if you haven’t read Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, I would recommend that you read those too! There is no point reading The Mirror & the Light as a stand alone read, it is definitely best enjoyed as the final part of the trilogy.

A word of warning – The Mirror & the Light is probably not the best read for lockdown as it is heavy in all senses of the word. I know many people are looking for easier reads at the moment and struggling to concentrate on anything challenging. At over 870 pages, The Mirror & the Light is the longest book I’ve ever read, and took me just over a month to read (I average about 10 days for a book).

The Mirror & the Light, Hilary Mantel, The Mirror & the Light by Hilary Mantel, Book review

Author: Sarah Mummy

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12 Comments

  1. You know I believe this trilogy to be one of the best things I have ever read. It’s almost perfect. I loved this and was devastated when I finished it – both for the ending, which is (spoiler alert) tragic and for the fact that I’d never be able to read it for the first time again!

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    • I agree with you that it’s one of the best things I’ve ever read. I was devastated at the ending, even though I knew what was coming because it’s history. It just seemed very unfair, but then much of Henry VIII’s reign was unfair to a lot of people.

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  2. I’ve never read any of Hilary Mantel’s books although she’s an author on my wishlist because she has won The Booker Prize. Is there a Hilary Mantel that you would recommend I read first?

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    • I’ve only read the Wolf Hall trilogy, so I would recommend Wolf Hall as a starting point. There’s no point in reading The Mirror & the Light without it. They are pretty heavy going, but I think they are all brilliant.

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  3. Debating whether to start Wolf Hall! I’m interested in the Henry VIII aspect, but – like you said – a weighty tome for the present situation!

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    • Wolf Hall is absolutely brilliant, but it may be worth waiting until you have plenty of peace and quiet to focus on it. I don’t know if you have a house full of kids or not, but I certainly couldn’t read it with kids around.

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    • It’s very wise to focus on easier reads at the moment, that’s what I’ve been doing since I finished this. I’m sure you will enjoy it when you do get round to reading it.

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  4. I love history and am fascinated by this period so think this will be on my list for when lockdown lifts or I get back to decent reads #ReadWithMe. When I was a child I thought I was Ann Boleyn reincarnated!

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    • Ann Boleyn reincarnated sounds like a pretty cool thing to be! You’ve certainly survived longer than she did. I’m not particularly interested in history, but reading this series has made me more interested. I’m sure you would love it.

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  5. I’ll be honest this trilogy doesn’t sound like my cup of tea, I’m not a historical kind of girl. But a good review none the less #readwithme

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    • Thanks very much. I didn’t think it would be my cup of tea either as I’m not into history (although reading it has made me more interested!). I only read it because a good friend recommended it and I didn’t want to tell her I’d decided not to read it! She was right and the whole thing was a fabulous read. But it wouldn’t be for everyone as it is pretty heavy going.

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