Summary and book reviews of Revelations by Mary Sharratt

Revelations

by Mary Sharratt

Revelations by Mary Sharratt X
Revelations by Mary Sharratt
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     Not Yet Rated
  • Published:
    Apr 2021, 320 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs
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Book Summary

A fifteenth-century Eat, Pray, Love, Revelations illuminates the intersecting lives of two female mystics who changed history - Margery Kempe and Julian of Norwich.

Bishop's Lynn, England, 1413. At the age of forty, Margery Kempe has nearly died giving birth to her fourteenth child. Fearing that another pregnancy might kill her, she makes a vow of celibacy, but she can't trust her husband to keep his end of the bargain. Desperate for counsel, she visits the famous anchoress Dame Julian of Norwich.

Pouring out her heart, Margery confesses that she has been haunted by visceral religious visions. Julian then offers up a confession of her own: she has written a secret, radical book about her own visions, Revelations of Divine Love. Nearing the end of her life and fearing Church authorities, Julian entrusts her precious book to Margery, who sets off the adventure of a lifetime to secretly spread Julian's words.

Mary Sharratt vividly brings the medieval past to life as Margery blazes her trail across Europe and the Near East, finding her unique spiritual path and vocation. It's not in a cloistered cell like Julian, but in the full bustle of worldly existence with all its wonders and perils.

1
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 ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

I had mixed feelings about the protagonist in a way that demonstrates how well this character is crafted, admiring Kempe's pluck while also finding her obnoxious at times. I absolutely loved her ambiguities and contradictions. Sharratt's excellent characterization is unfortunately limited to Kempe herself; almost every other person is drawn without nuance. This is a relatively large flaw, but the other details are so well rendered that it mostly didn't impact my high opinion of the work...continued

Full Review Members Only (801 words).

(Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).

Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Sharratt delivers an intense if somewhat diffuse portrait of medieval pilgrim and mystic Margery Kempe...Margery's faith and emotions are rich on the page, but the many episodes don't quite hang together. This offers an accessible but not particularly notable view of medieval life.

Booklist
Sharratt evokes the sights and smells of medieval England as viscerally as she does Margery's divine ecstasy, immersing readers in both her inner and outer journeys...Revelations will appeal to any reader interested in tales driven by a flawed woman with a certain purpose.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Drawn from Kempe's actual autobiography, the novel is enhanced by Sharratt's storytelling ability...Readers will root for Margery as she wins friends among a minority of kindred spirits, who, like her, dare to imagine such heresies as Scriptures in English and women writing books. Sharratt's gift for grounding larger issues in everyday lives makes for historical fiction at its best.

Author Blurb Donna Woolfolk Cross, internationally bestselling author of Pope Joan
Mystic or madwoman? Mary Sharratt makes this controversial woman a sympathetic character, defined and defied by the time in which she lived. Revelations is filled with fascinating details about the perils of the 15th-century pilgrim road, especially for a woman daring enough to travel it alone.

Author Blurb Cathy Marie Buchanan, New York Times bestselling author of The Painted Girls and Daughter of Black Lake
Set during a time of fervid religious persecution, Mary Sharratt's carefully researched, capaciously imagined Revelations brings to vivid life 15th century Christian mystic Margery Kempe. A transporting novel that captures both the harsh reality of medieval womanhood and the mystery of the divine.

Author Blurb Candace Robb, author of the bestselling Owen Archer mysteries
Considered through the female gaze, Margery Kempe's travels and travails take on new significance as she undertakes a dangerous mission for Julian of Norwich in a time of Lollard persecution and a misogynist Church patriarchy. Thriller, domestic tragedy, medieval travelogue, meditation on a woman's spiritual awakening, Revelations pulses with life. A gem of a book. Highly recommended!

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Beyond the Book

John Wycliffe and Lollardy

Portrait of John Wycliffe In Mary Sharratt's historical novel Revelations, the protagonist is tried for heresy when suspected of preaching the tenets of Lollardy, a medieval religious movement that deviated from the Roman Catholic Church's approved doctrine.

At the beginning of the 16th century, Roman Catholicism was the dominant religion in Europe, led by a church hierarchy with the Pope at its head. A schism known as the Protestant Reformation began in 1517, resulting in congregations breaking from the established church and rejecting the Pope's authority. Protestantism didn't arise in a vacuum, however, and some of the beliefs espoused by the reformers were first proposed more than a century earlier by English theologian John Wycliffe (c. 1328-1384).

A...

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