Excerpt from Revelations by Mary Sharratt, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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by Mary Sharratt

Revelations by Mary Sharratt X
Revelations by Mary Sharratt
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  • First Published:
    Apr 2021, 320 pages

    Apr 2022, 320 pages


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Anno Domini 1390

When I first saw the Mysteries at York, I was seventeen and as vain as Salome. 

All the way from Bishop's Lynn in Norfolk we had ridden, a seven-day journey. We were well rewarded, for the City of York was a moving pageant. Scattered through the streets and squares were the wagons, wains, and carts where the plays were performed that narrated the entire sweep of history from the Creation to the End of Days. Such a spectacle! Yet I can say without lying that as I rode past those decorated stages all eyes were on me. Even the players forgot their lines as they gaped and stared. 

How could they not? I rode a dappled chestnut mare, her bridle inlaid with polished silver shining in the June sun. White roses and green ribbons were plaited in her flaxen mane. And I was showier still. As befitting the Mayor of Lynn's only daughter, I wore gold piping on my towering headdress. My long trailing sleeves were dagged with tippets and slashed to reveal the many-colored brocades beneath. Pearls and coral beads gleamed at my throat. Even my Ave beads, hanging on display from my girdle, were of Baltic amber. My father had grown rich as a trader, exporting wool and grain and importing wine, timber, and fur. His ships sailed as far as Russia. Father was not only Mayor of Bishop's Lynn, but a member of Parliament and a justice of the peace. A descendent of the de Brunhams of Brunham Manor in Norfolk, his kin had served as clerics for the Black Prince.

My lofty perch in the saddle allowed me to see over the heads of the poorer, horseless folk as I watched the Mystery of Creation. A young man in a flesh-colored tunic—​intended to hint at the nakedness of Adam—​lay on his side while an old man with a beard of purest white waved his hands. Then, up from behind the reclining young man, rose a girl in a flesh-colored shift, as though she had been conjured from the boy's side. We gasped as we beheld Mother Eve—​a tanner's fourteen-year-old daughter with long golden hair. She stood beneath a sapling apple tree placed upon the cart. From its branches hung fruit fashioned from crimson leather and a real dead snake—​the Tanners' Guild had stuffed it to make it seem as lifelike as possible. Eve put her ear to the wicked serpent's mouth before offering Adam the apple. We all crossed ourselves and held our breath as we witnessed the original sin, our fall from grace. 

Yet I was lighthearted. Flanked by my parents and our servants, I gladly accepted the cup of caudled ale that the alewife pressed in my hand. Sipping the spiced brew, I reveled in the performance, the sheer pageantry of these Mysteries, so unlike anything I would have ever seen in mercantile, money-counting Lynn. 

When the first Mystery ended, we wound our way up Petergate to see the next. We passed jugglers, minstrels, acrobats leaping backward to land upon their hands, and even a dancing bear. Still, I was the one who turned everyone's head. A confectioner fawned as he lifted his tray of sweetmeats for my perusal. I took my time in making my selection, intently examining his delectable morsels of honeycomb, currants, and almonds as I reveled in his admiration. 

Mother rolled her eyes. "Margery, you've grown insufferable! Remember, my dear, pride comes before the fall." 

Once Mother had been the great beauty of Lynn, or so Father told everyone in his jovial way, but birthing twelve babies had taken its toll. Though she was no less sumptuously attired than I, she had lost half her teeth and her face looked tired and pale. The greatest injustice my mother suffered was that only two of her children had survived—​my brother, Robert, who couldn't join us in York because he had sailed across the seas to trade, and I. Even our family's wealth and position were no match for the contagions that killed infants in their cradles. 

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Excerpted from Revelations by Mary Sharratt. Copyright © 2021 by Mary Sharratt. Excerpted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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