The Mirror and the Light (Hilary Mantel) - Henry Holt and Company - 2020 - 757 pages

Eight years after the second volume (Bring Up the Bodies), author Mantel has finally completed her Thomas Cromwell trilogy.  Ann Boleyn has lost her head and King Henry needs another wife then another and another.  Cromwell was trapped in his position as the prime councillor [sic].  As 1537 passed and an alliance was eventually made with the Duke of Cleves, Cromwell added duties, titles and wealth.  Henry has grown restless and he sees heretics around every corner while France and Rome threaten war.  As always, Henry blames everyone but himself for his woes.  An early passage in the book explains Henry for all time:

"Someone will say, 'Master Secretary, will you?'  And led by him through the agenda, they will begin their round of scrapping and cavilling, but with a furtive camaraderie they would not like Henry to witness, for he prefers his councillors divided.  If councillors frown at the foe, the king can smile - ever-gracious prince.  If they bully, he can reward.  If they insist, he lulls, he coaxes, charms.  It is his councillors, as mean a crew as ever walked, who carry his sins for him: who agree to be worse people, so Henry can be better."

It is easy to get lost in the world of Henry VIII and also to be glad you were not there.  Mantel paints the picture and fills in the 16th century dialog with a minimum of fictional characters.  Although fictional because no witness survives nor witness-account survives in toto, Mantel provides this service to history that only exists in myth and mystery.  [JAM 3/29/2020]