05 November, 2013

Illuminations by Mary Sharratt Review for Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours!!

Illuminations by Mary Sharratt
Publication Date: October 15, 2013
Mariner Books
Paperback; 288p

ISBN-10: 0544106539

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.

Praise for Illuminations

"An enchanting beginning to the story of the perennially fascinating 12th-century mystic, Hildegard of Bingen. It is easy to paint a picture of a saint from the outside but much more difficult to show them from the inside. Mary Sharratt has undertaken this with sensitivity and grace."
—Margaret George, author of Mary, Called Magdalene

"I loved Mary Sharratt’s The Daughters of Witching Hill, but she has outdone herself with Illuminations: A Novel of Hildegard Von Bingen. She brings one of the most famous and enigmatic women of the Middle Ages to vibrant life in this tour de force, which will captivate the reader from the very first page."
—Sharon Kay Penman, author of the New York Times bestseller Time and Chance

"I love Mary Sharratt. The grace of her writing and the grace of her subject combine seamlessly in this wonderful novel about the amazing, too-little-known saint, Hildegard of Bingen, a mystic and visionary. Sharratt captures both the pain and the beauty such gifts bring, as well as bringing to life a time of vast sins and vast redemptions."
—Karleen Koen, author of Before Versailles and the best-selling Through a Glass Darkly

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.  You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.

My Thoughts

Hildegard Von Bingen was a German born composer, writer and recently a saint who was sent to accompany Jutta, a daughter of Count Stephan II of Sponheim, according to this novel at the age of eight, as an oblate to the church. The two were enclosed into a two room prison if you will. Life is hard for a young girl who enclosed within these two rooms with a woman who at times was not very nice, often cruel. Jutta was a visionary and a lot of pilgrims would come to the monastery to get an audience with Jutta which also benefited the monks monetarily as did the dowry's of Jutta and Hildegard. During her time imprisoned, Hildegard took her vows and became a nun.

Jutta taught Hildegard to read and write and to pass the time they also did the monastery's needlework, making of vestments and even made clothes for the monks and themselves. Hildegard also used her time to grow plants for medicinal and other purposes. Hildegard experienced 'visions' that is thought to be from the auras of migraines. Hildegard is known for writing books about her auras. I think that it might be part true, but it seemed to me that Hildegard did indeed have visions so powerful as to be debilitating. Hildegard dreamed of freedom from her two rooms and after Jutta passed away, Hildegard and two other young nuns were allowed to be free to roam the monastary and its grounds. She was also elected by her fellow nuns as Magistra. After her freedom, Hildegard and other nuns went ahead and founded two monasteries.

Hildegard, in the form of one of her visions, received a divine command to record her visions which evolved to be her first major work called Scivias. She is also known for her musical compositions and numerous other writings that survive to this day. The Catholic Church canonized her as a saint and in 2012 was named as Doctor of the Church, of which she was the fourth woman of 35 saints to have that title.

I think that Hildegard was certainly way ahead of her time as a woman and as a nun in this medieval era. Definitely a woman to be revered. I am not Catholic and had not heard of Hildegard and was not sure if I would enjoy this book that is very religious in its context. The book was so easy to read and understand and I have to say that I enjoyed it very much. Some reviewers have commented that the author has not been historically accurate in writing this tale of Hildegard. I disagree, it is historical fiction and after I read more about Hildegard I feel that Ms.Sharratt did a wonderful job in telling the story of this miraculous woman. I highly recommend this book!

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