Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Donna Woolfolk Cross - The Pope Joan

For a thousand years men have denied her existence--Pope Joan, the woman who disguised herself as a man and rose to rule Christianity for two years. Now this compelling novel animates the legend with a portrait of an unforgettable woman who struggles against restrictions her soul cannot accept. When her older brother dies in a Viking attack, the brilliant young Joan assumes his identity and enters a Benedictine monastery where, as Brother John Anglicus, she distinguishes herself as a scholar and healer. Eventually drawn to Rome, she soon becomes enmeshed in a dangerous mix of powerful passion and explosive politics that threatens her life even as it elevates her to the highest throne in the Western world.

Comment: This was February's pick in one of my book club's. I didn't have an opinion about it before starting it, I wasn't expecting anything special but I wasn't dreading it either.
The story is about Joan, a young woman that according to some papers was pope for a while although this isn't written in any official text recognized by the Vatican. The author has taken advantage of her studies as an historian to write a fictional story about Joan based on some incongruence she found about Joan's life and that period in History.
The storyline follows Joan throughout her whole life. As a child, Joan wanted to study but was forbidden because she was a girl. Still she always found some way to learn and to be better than many boys. She also falls in love but life didn't always help her and after a terrible thing that happened to the village she was living in during her adolescence, she disguises herself as a man and looks for a life among a masculine religious Order. In there she learns so much more and gains a reputation of someone who helps the ones in need. From there she starts living among the important religious figures of that time and comes the time she is indeed recognized as pope. While this happens she reconnects also with her former beloved and her end comes soon after, when she's past 40.
I liked the story a lot, I've read the whole book in one day because the story moved along and every time I tried to stop something important was happening in Joan's live and I couldn't. The writing obviously took some liberties considering the time it is set but to the fictional part if the book, I don't think there's many flaws. Of course I'd like some things to be different but I didn't find any threatening issues with what I was reading. In the end it's an interesting read, full of facts but made believe enough to entertain. It's actually a very good book in the historical romance genre. I recommend it because it's easy to read and has strong elements that make us eager to see Joan have some victories.

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