The Mirror & The Light by Hilary Mantel

Cover image for THE MIRROR & THE LIGHTBook- The Mirror & the Light is Hilary Mantel’s latest and long awaited conclusion to her Thomas Cromwell trilogy, which began with Wolf Hall and followed up by Bring Up the Bodies. The trilogy covers the historical events of King Henry VIII: his obsession with producing a male heir, break with Catholicism, and eventual marriages to six different women–three of whom meet tragic ends (two by beheading and the other dying following childbirth). Modern readers may not be familiar with Thomas Cromwell, who for about eight years served as Henry’s most trusted advisor. Often portrayed negatively in works such as A Man for All Seasons by George Bernard Shaw, Mantel’s books cast Cromwell more sympathetically and tell the story from his point of view. Spoiler alert! The Mirror & the Light opens with the events following the beheading of Anne Boylen and Cromwell’s dealings with an increasingly desperate and unstable King, while seeking his successive brides.

The close study of Cromwell’s character and state craft at the court of Henry VIII make The Mirror & the Light, as well as the other two books, great. The trilogy might well be described as a sixteenth-century The West Wing. Given how gripping that show is, that tells you all you need to know about Mantel’s impeccable prose. Though The Mirror & the Light is at times dense and slow moving, the quality of her writing and sense of foreboding kept me reading. I especially admired how the King’s inevitable displeasure with Cromwell and the Court’s plotting against him are slowly revealed, then culminate in a highly memorable, ending scene. The Wolf Hall trilogy will appeal to fans of historical fiction and those who enjoy stories of political machinations and betrayal.

The Wolf Hall trilogy is available on Overdrive for digital download on eBook and eAudiobook formats.

House of Cards, Season 1 (2013)

House-of-Cards-Poster1TV Series – Francis J. Underwood, or Frank, has done all he can to ensure that Garrett Walker will be the 45th President of the United States. In return for doing his part, Frank only asks for what he deserves: to be made Secretary of State. Things take a startling turn when those in power whom Frank believed he could persuade, manipulate and control decide to give his position to someone else.

Frank is not content treated so poorly, nor is he willing to remain House Majority Whip forever. Instead, with his wife, Claire, he begins to plot a fitting revenge. A scheme worthy of Shakespearean play and, in many ways, quite similar.

To achieve their own joint (and personal) goals, they will use the President, the Vice President, the Chief of Staff, the Chief of Police, Senators, Representatives, Governors, Ambassadors, billionaires, photographers and reporters as pawns. All the while both of them know they can’t really rely on or confide in those around them.

And if they can’t trust anyone, can they even trust each other?

The acting throughout is consistently excellent. Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright do a brilliant job of playing the lead characters. Superbly written and darkly entertaining, House of Cards Season 1 (as well as Season 2 and Season 3) is well worth a watch. Or, in my case, a very frequent re-watch.