I don’t know where to start to write about “The Mirror & The Light.” I miss Cromwell. I miss reading Hilary Mantel’s sentences. She draws you into the city, the Tower of London or a room at Austin Friars where a roaring fire lit the face of the Queen of Sheba from a tapestry on the wall. I read “Wolf Hall” and “Bring up the Bodies” twice, listened to both on audiobooks and watched the miniseries based on “Wolf Hall.”
I loved every word because Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell—Cardinal Wolsey’s man and later King Henry VIII’s right hand—is a person you want to know.
If you think our minds are more sophisticated or evolved than the 1500s, think again. It was a time when you could be a Renaissance man. You could know almost everything there was to know for the time. It was also a dangerous period when a misplaced trust or a breath of the wrong air could kill you. Plagues had seasons. Women regularly died in childbirth. Children perished at an alarming rate. It was also one of many times when the fight for religious power eventually brought everyone down.
I often think I’m done with stories of men. We’ve read and watched and listened to them for hundreds of years. But Mantel’s trilogy drew me back to what great writing can do for your imagination, your soul and your spirit.
If you want to feel as if you are in the room with a central character in British history; a man with a dry sense of humor, who knows how to send a chill through your bones without putting you on the rack (and preferred to scare a confession out of you, if need be), a loving if absent father and husband; and a loyal friend who kept his enemies close—maybe too close—Cromwell’s your man.
I find it overwhelming to comprehend and feel the pain of the deaths from our current plague so am pouring my heart into saying goodbye to very good company: Thomas Cromwell (1485 – 1540).
“My heart is poured out like water. My bones are scattered. And my heart, like wax, is melted." (A paraphrasing of Psalm 22:14 from “Father Brown: The Last Man”.)