Summary: For a thousand years her existence has been denied. She is the legend that will not die–Pope Joan, the ninth-century woman who disguised herself as a man and rose to become the only female ever to sit on the throne of St. Peter. Now in this riveting novel, Donna Woolfolk Cross paints a sweeping portrait of an unforgettable heroine who struggles against restrictions her soul cannot accept.
Brilliant and talented, young Joan rebels against medieval social strictures forbidding women to learn. When her brother is brutally killed during a Viking attack, Joan takes up his cloak–and his identity–and enters the monastery of Fulda. As Brother John Anglicus, Joan distinguishes herself as a great scholar and healer. Eventually, she is drawn to Rome, where she becomes enmeshed in a dangerous web of love, passion, and politics. Triumphing over appalling odds, she finally attains the highest office in Christendom–wielding a power greater than any woman before or since. But such power always comes at a price . . .
In this international bestseller, Cross brings the Dark Ages to life in all their brutal splendor and shares the dramatic story of a woman whose strength of vision led her to defy the social restrictions of her day.
Review: An enjoyable story about a legendary female figure.
I had never heard of Pope Joan until I was given this book by my mother-in-law who said I would enjoy it. I read the book with skepticism. Cross provides an author’s note in the back of the book about Pope Joan and about the possibility of her ever existing. I must admit that I skimmed it briefly, but didn’t read it all the way through. I was interested enough to do some research on my found. From what I found, I believe that Pope Joan never existed although there seemed to be a number of women over the years who had disguised themselves as men.
I liked Joan well enough, especially her spirit and drive to strive for more than just a medieval woman’s life. She was ofttimes too good to believe and it seemed like she was trying to strive for sainthood. Joan had a number of close calls, so many that it was starting to get unbelievable. I believe that it could be possible for a woman to dress as a man in certain circumstances and not get found out, but that this could not go on forever and that someone would have eventually discovered who Joan really was.
Recommendation: I would recommend this book to those that enjoy historical fiction set during medieval times.