Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross is exactly why I love historical fiction! I was hooked from the very first page of this novel as I journeyed through Joan’s life with her and I was alternately shocked and amazed at the life she led. I was so captivated by this novel and impressed with both the detail of the time period it was written in and the vivid descriptions of the life, the area and the people that I could not put it down. Being that I had known nothing of Pope Joan before this book, the pages flew by and I felt sad when I finished it, because although it ended at a good point, I still wanted more.
Joan was an amazing, strong, and resourceful woman in a time when women weren’t; in a time when they had no rights whatsoever; in a time when it was ok to beat or rape a woman with no consequences. From the day Joan was born she was unwanted by her father, supposedly a man of God himself although he had no trouble beating Joan when she displeased him which happened much too often. To him women were worthless and so when he learned of Joan’s intelligence in learning he was none too pleased. Joan however was determined not to live the life of her mother and vowed to do whatever necessary to further herself in the world and that’s just what she does even at great personal risk to herself.
Thankfully a teaching master takes a shine to Joan and offers to tutor her but all to soon he leaves but promises to find someone else to teach her. Ultimately he does and Joan is summoned to attend a school away from home; finally Joan will escape her father’s tyranny. However, it is a struggle for her there as well. She is still a girl and teased and shunned relentlessly because of her intelligence not only by the other children but also some of the adults. Thankfully Joan meets Gerold who, throughout her life will play a huge roll in it as from the beginning the two form a strong bond.
After a terrifying tragedy Joan is forced to leave the school. She decides to join a monastery – the very one her brother was to attend and what better way to do so but as her brother John. She disguises herself as a man and makes a peaceful life for herself for many years. She’s respected for her knowledge as a man and is allowed access to all the learning she wants. Again, Joan is forced to leave and ends up in Rome. There she lives as a man also and is respected for her knowledge especially in the area of medicine and healing. Joan lives the rest of her life as a man all the way to being elected as Pope. Joan was such a brave woman living this way. Had she ever been discovered the punishment would have been death. To fool all of those people all those years would have caused an immense uproar.
Joan, although taking over a man’s appearance, still thinks to the life she may have had with a husband and children or her one true love. This was never to be her destiny though – hers was to learn, teach and heal. Joan was a character that grabbed my heart from the beginning and I believed in her and cared about her until the end. To think that in that time a woman had to disguise herself as a man to live a life beyond marriage and children is truly saddening yet I imagine Joan was not the only one to ever attempt it. This is an amazing book, truly worth reading. The best is that it is being made into a major motion picture and I can’t wait to see it!
Before I move on to the giveaway, keep in mind that Donna has her own promotion going on to Walk the Pope Joan Red Carpet with her and her family to her movie premiere. How fabulous is that! Head over to Donna’s website here and check out the details on how to enter but hurry as the deadline is July 31st. I’d like to thank Donna for my specially inscribed copy of Pope Joan. This novel will have a special place on my shelf as it’s one of my favorite reads this year!
I’m excited to be able to offer up one copy of Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross to one lucky reader courtesy of Donna herself. She will even autograph it with a personal inscription to the winner which makes it even more special! What can you do to enter:
- For 1 entry leave me a comment with a way to contact you.
- For 2 entries comment on something from my review.
- For 3 entries blog or tweet this giveaway to spread the word.