The name Thomas Cromwell has come to some attention in recent years thanks to Hilary Mantel’s hugely successful novels Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, which have become a hit television programme as well as two hugely successful plays.

But Tracy Borman’s thoroughly absorbing biography is also just as gripping about getting to know the man who became Henry VIII’s faithful servant.

From his humble beginnings to rising up as far as he possibly could, Thomas Cromwell comes across as a very contradictory man in many ways. On the one side he was a kind and considerate man to his family and friends but on the other he was a deadly enemy to make if people disagreed with his religious reforms – of which there were many.

Borman has an ability to make Cromwell’s story come across as a thriller, but never lacking in the detail that the reader soon comes to expect from her.

But it also comes across as a very balanced story – acknowledging his flaws as well as his strengths to come up with one of the most engaging biographies that I have read in a long time.

While I have a strong love for anything to do with the Tudors (thanks to the amount of time I spent at Hampton Court as a child on school trips), I didn’t really know much about Thomas Cromwell at all so this book has given me a better understanding of what he got up to at court.

Overall, he comes across as a very humane individual at first before his paranoia and desperation for control and power began to overtake him and Borman charts his rise and fall well throughout, with an underlying tension that keeps the reader gripped throughout.

But the book has also been researched well, allowing Borman to present her arguments in a plausible and interesting way – consistently arguing her points well with a wide range of evidence.

This then also allows the book to flow along at a nice and even pace, which makes it easy to absorb and enjoy in manageable bits – ideal reading in fact for those who like to take their time reading a book.

Borman has brought this essentially shadowy character to life and really shows how he was at the centre of court during Henry VIII’s reign – during the good and the bad times. It is a very gripping read and I would highly recommend it for anyone who has much love for the Tudor period as I do.

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