Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Illuminations by Mary Sharratt
About the Book:
Skillfully weaving historical fact with psychological insight and vivid imagination, Illuminations brings to life one of the most extraordinary women of the Middle Ages: Hildegard von Bingen, Benedictine abbess, visionary, and polymath.
Offered to the Church at the age of eight, Hildegard was expected to live in silent submission as the handmaiden of a renowned, disturbed young nun, Jutta von Sponheim. But Hildegard rejected Jutta's masochistic piety, rejoicing in her own secret visions of the divine. When Jutta died, Hildegard broke out of her prison, answering the heavenly call to speak and write about her visions and to liberate her sisters. Riveting and utterly unforgettable, Illuminations is a deeply moving portrayal of a woman willing to risk everything for what she believed.
I thought Mary Sharratt's Illuminations was a beautiful and imaginative account of 12th century abbess, Hildegard von Bingen.
Given to the church as a "tithe" at the age of eight, the young Hildegard was forced to live in an anchorage of a monastery -- literally walled in as if living in a tomb -- to spend her days in self-sacrifice and prayer. Her only companion was the wealthy and beautiful Jutta von Sponheim who harbored deep secrets and embraced a life of self-torture and constant prayer as a form of holiness. Incredibly, despite this "living death," Hildegard possessed a deep and powerful spiritual core which helped her to rise above her horrific conditions. Forced into silence and obedience for most of her life, it is truly a testament of her courage and faith that she was able to emerge from the depths of deprivation and obedience to become a powerful spiritual force in her world.
Hildegard's life and accomplishments are fascinating, and I recommend this deeply moving tale to anyone who enjoys medieval historical figures and empowered women.
About the Author
The author of four critically acclaimed historical novels, Mary Sharratt is an American who lives in the Pendle region of Lancashire, England, the setting for her acclaimed Daughters of the Witching Hill, which recasts the Pendle Witches of 1612 in their historical context as cunning folk and healers. She also lived for twelve years in Germany, which, along with her interest in sacred music and herbal medicine, inspired her to write Illuminations: A Novel of Hildegard von Bingen. Illuminations won the Nautilus Gold Award for Better Books for a Better World and was selected as a Kirkus Book of the Year.
For more information please visit Mary's website and blog.
Publication Date: October 15, 2013
Disclaimer: I received a copy of the novel, Illuminations, from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.