I was reading Mantel's Bring Up the Bodies last night and it is as alive as her contemporary memoirs and fiction (e.g, Giving up the Ghost) and it moves outward from this personal insight to make it general and political. I wish I could write a book such as this.
I wonder myself where do people get the strength to live, the desire to, who understand how the world works and how people in reality function in it. To write this, get it down, a palimpsest, a disguise is needed. So that's why Mantel kept moving to historical fiction; her earlier ones are wooden, not these.
Last night I watched the last episode of Wolf Hall, the TV mini-series: the last few slow minutes left me shaking. The quiet realism, the intuitive natural (alas, all in nature) feeling with which they all performed their roles in this deadliest of pageants.
Claire Foy is extraordinarily real as Anne standing alone steady in the wind holding on. Gregory asks his father why does she look up to the tower as she walks to the scaffold; says Cromwell "because she thinks there is still hope." The executioner readies his sword to swipe her head off. She hears him, feels his presence, knows. You feel her breathing heavily, her trauma-terror deep within, someone has etched a line of dust and dirt around her neck.
It is astonishing how daring the treatment of death has become: this scene came as close to showing the inward experience and near witnessing of an execution as any I've ever experienced.
As important as the question why do people do this to one another is, Why do they let such things be done? And then being alive from day to day in ordinary ways (also seen in this heightened form).