I've started reading Hilary Mantel's Bring Up the Bodies and thus far am pleased with it. I'd been avoiding her Tudor novels, mostly because I love Ford Madox Ford's The Fifth Queen so much and I didn't want to get myself involved in anyone else's Henry VIII fiction. But I like the way she's made Cromwell a sympathetic character, whereas Ford portrayed him as a monster. And her prose details are beautiful and evocative. In a way, her style reminds me of some of Jonathan Swift's poems. Swift, to my mind, had a matchless eye for street details, and Mantel can also conjure up place with great deftness and clarity.
A Description of the Morning
Now hardly here and there an hackney-coach,
Appearing, showed the ruddy morn’s approach.
Now Betty from her master’s bed had flown,
And softly stole to discompose her own.
The slipshod prentice from his master’s door
Had pared the dirt, and sprinkled round the floor.
Now Moll had whirled her mop with dextrous airs,
Prepared to scrub the entry and the stairs.
The youth with broomy stumps began to trace
The kennel-edge, where wheels had worn the place.
The small-coal man was heard with cadence deep,
Till drowned in shriller notes of chimney-sweep,
Duns at his lordship’s gate began to meet,
And Brickdust Moll had screamed through half the street.
The turnkey now his flock returning sees,
Duly let out a-nights to steal for fees;
The watchful bailiffs take their silent stands;
And schoolboys lag with satchels in their hands.