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The Boston Globe

Opinion

JAMES CARROLL

History’s monsters — and ours

Saga of Henry VIII reverberates today, even in America

Hilary Mantel’s coup in winning her second Man Booker Prize last week speaks not only to her distinction as a novelist but also to the broad resonance of her subject. The Booker Prize is Britain’s most prestigious literary award, but Mantel, only the third writer to win twice, has struck deep chords in the United States, too. At the center of the 2009 winner “Wolf Hall,” and of this year’s “Bring Up the Bodies,” is the drastic figure of Thomas Cromwell, the intimate adviser to Henry VIII. Literature can illuminate history; Mantel’s portrait of Cromwell brings us into the era in which our own sensibility was forged, and hints at dangers that still lurk today.

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