Day 3 of Pope Joan Week...
Where do I begin? Besides the fact that I loved this book, I can also say in all honesty that I cannot compare it to anything I’ve ever read before. Pope Joan, by Donna Woolfolk Cross, is a story of great magnitude- in a class of its own.
First of all, imagine yourself sitting back- not reading- but watching as vivid moments of a tale come forth, rolling like a movie engulfing you into the actual moment. This book is loaded with historical rawness of the times-the 9th century. You’d think you’re living through an epic; one that’s filled with battles, ascensions, spirituality, supreme clerics, warriors, leaders, heroes- men of grandeur, worth, knowledge and power…
So, if you’re already picturing yourself glued to your favourite all time panoramic historical motion picture, where the center of the story evolves through the eyes of the hero and think you’ve been here before…Think again. This is different. In this enormous production, the hero this time is a woman…a pope…in a world where women meant nothing…
Joan, at a very young age, was a bright and curious young child with the thirst for knowledge and the ability to absorb it all naturally, and with incredible ease. Alas, her major downfall was having been born a girl in a time when it was dreadfully sinful for her to indulge in what was the sole privelege and realm of men. Being born in the wrong time and of the wrong gender would be Joan’s initiation to her destiny.
Forced to adapt to a man’s world, Joan dressed as one and became known as John in order to survive and excel at her extraordinary competencies as student, intellectual,monk, healer, spiritual advisor, and eventually- pope. Joan sacrificed everything. If her true identity were ever discovered, it would mean automatic death for her…She was ready to face this challenge, having understood with certainty that the perils of living as a woman were far more dangerous in every aspect. Torn between her quest for knowledge and her denial of self, she opted for the first.
The book takes you through the life of this courageous woman who struggled relentlessly to reach her greatest potential. But don’t think that because Joan elevated herself to equal, or superior status, that she ever forgot that she was a woman…aware of all her senses…
The book presents facets of Joan’s life that depict extreme scenes involving her father and even deeper issues concerning her mother. Her parents, her brothers, cardinals, popes, learned men, scornful teachers, caring monks…and a great forbidden love- each playing an important role causal to the creation of Joan’s fate.
Pope Joan is a novel that captivates to the core by immersing you into Joan’s brilliant thoughts, vivid senses, reaching her inner voice that demanded to be heard. I felt myself cheering and caring deeply for this woman whose mind, body, heart and soul never rested. I wanted her to fulfill all her dreams, which she almost did- but not without devastating consequences.
Although this is a heavy book, it surprisingly moves at a relatively quick pace. The scenes are brilliantly spaced and the evolvements of events naturally flow onto the next. Not only is Pope Joan filled with suspense, in-depth characters, struggles and elations, passion and sorrow; it is an incredibly moving read. Truly sensational!
And...If you're wondering, 'Was There A Pope Joan?'...An interesting Author's Note at the end of the book will help you reach your own conclusion...
For book club interest, there's a great Reading Guide too.
To enter the Pope Joan Giveaway of this fabulous author autographed-with-inscription-read; this is what you have to do:
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For another raving review on Pope Joan, see Sheila DeChantal's post here.