The Mirror & The Light Reading Guide

James Bennett are excited to bring you the below Bookclub Questions for The Mirror & The Light.


• Thomas Cromwell is now in his fi fties, ‘the same small quick eyes, the same thickset imperturbable body; the same schedules.’ But to what extent is he a different man to the one we know from Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies? How has his character developed?

• Discuss Hilary Mantel’s use of the present tense in The Mirror & the Light. She allows us to follow her characters in real time as they make decisions the consequences of which they cannot be sure. Does this change how we think of history?

• What echoes are there in The Mirror & the Light of contemporary politics and Britain’s relationship with Europe? To what extent is Thomas Cromwell a thoroughly European character?

• ‘The burden of kingship,’ Henry says, ‘no man can imagine it. All my life, to be a prince: to be observed to be a prince; all eyes to be set on me; to be an exemplar of virtue … to unmake myself as a man in order to make myself as a king.’ What picture does Hilary Mantel paint of Henry VIII, as a man and as a king? Consider the trajectory of his relationship with Thomas Cromwell.

• Consider Cromwell as a father and as a son. And the paternal relationships he develops.

• The Mirror & the Light’s cast of characters includes those who have died in the course of the previous two novels. Consider the role of ghosts in the novel.

• Discuss the relationship of men and women. Do the female characters have power? How familiar are the gender inequalities to the world we live in now?

• From the descriptions of Henry’s leg wound, to the river Thames which fl ows through the story, The Mirror & the Light is carefully and vividly drawn. Consider the use of texture and physicality in the novel. How successfully does Hilary Mantel paint a picture of 1540s London?

• Is Thomas Cromwell’s downfall inevitable? When and how does he become conscious of the fate that awaits him? How does Cromwell react to his own demise?

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