by Donna Norfolk Cross
Crown Publishing Group, 2009
Summary in a sentence:
When her older brother is killed, Joan, a rebellious ninth-century woman, assumes his identity, enters a monastery and becomes a great Christian scholar, eventually attaining the throne of Pope.
I've always been a big fan of historical fiction and Pope Joan definitely delivers. I mean, a story about a female pope who might have existed? Bring it on!
Joan is a very strong character. She is brave and educated in an age that saw an educated woman as unnatural and sinful. She also has a vast knowledge of medieval medicine which comes in handy later in the novel. The plot is action-filled; this is a book that sucks you in and can't be put down until it is done. Author notes in the back of the book are very informative about the Dark Ages and the church in Joan's time. I became so interested in the period while reading this book that I found myself researching the legend of Pope Joan...researching for fun! What is that?
One of the themes of the book is the idea of inner conflict, especially in regards to religious upbringing. Joan is the child of a pagan mother and a strict Christian father. She constantly struggles between faith and doubt and between her mind and heart.
The novel raises plenty of questions about women in the church both in the Dark Ages and today and whether Pope Joan even existed in the first place. I highly recommend this book for all historical fiction fans and those who enjoy a novel with a strong female protagonist.
- Shroud for the Archbishop by Peter Tremayne
- The Angel and the Sword by Cecelia Holland
- The Lark's Lament by Alan Gordon
Other points of view on the book:
Peeking Between the Pages
One Person's Journey Through a World of Books
Books for Breakfast