Thursday, October 17, 2013

Illuminations by Mary Sharratt

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Read: October 16, 2013

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.

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Were it possible to drown in another's words I might very well have been lost to author Mary Sharratt's pen while reading Illuminations. I really hate to gush, but there is no other way to describe my experience with this book. 

For the record, I knew practically nothing about this story prior to reading it. I am not a Catholic, I'd was not at all familiar with Hildegard von Bingen and I'd never heard of an anchorite. In short, I was completely ignorant of the subject matter and wholly unprepared for what I would find within these pages.  

Given to the church against her will, Hildegard spends thirty years suffocating behind sealed walls. Thus confined she mourns her loss of her freedom, but in the darkness discovers her faith and the courage required to defend it in defiance of the most powerful men of her age. Though inspired by the life of a Saint, this is much more than a religious story of devotion and prayer. It is a tribute in and of itself to feminine fortitude and strength against overwhelming and unimaginable opposition. 

Elegantly written one can't help, but admire Sharratt's extraordinary gift for storytelling. Though restricted to two small rooms for a large portion of the novel, her narrative never lacks movement or intrigue. I wasn't expecting that nor the intimacy Sharratt was able to create between her audience and Hildegard. I'm not big on emotionally driven stories but even I couldn't help being drawn into the world Sharratt created and the story she chose to tell.  

Easily one of the best books I've read this year, Illuminations is a vibrate and captivating portrait of an enigmatic woman defined by her desire to love as she herself felt loved by God. 

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"My lady," I said, "we don't choose out path, but we are called. Sometimes God's calling appears unfathomable."
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Check out all the stops on Mary Sharratt's Illuminations virtual book Tour


Monday, October 14
Review & Giveaway at The Maiden’s Court
Feature & Giveaway at Passages to the Past
Tuesday, October 15
Review at Plum Creek Peddler
Interview & Giveaway at Unabridged Chick
Wednesday, October 16
Review at Bitches with Books
Thursday, October 17
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Review & Giveaway at A Bookish Libraria
Friday, October 18
Review at Bloggin’ ’bout Books
Interview at Flashlight Commentary
Monday, October 21
Review at Book of Secrets
Tuesday, October 22
Review at The Most Happy Reader
Review & Giveaway at Book Lovers Paradise
Wednesday, October 23
Review at Books, Belles and Beaux
Review & Giveaway at Confessions of an Avid Reader
Thursday, October 24
Review at Just One More Chapter
Guest Post at Books, Belles and Beaux
Friday, October 25
Interview & Giveaway at Just One More Chapter
Tuesday, October 29
Review at Griperang’s Bookmarks
Guest Post & Giveaway at Enchanted by Josephine
Wednesday, October 30
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews
Friday, November 1
Review at Jorie Loves a Story
Review & Giveaway at Broken Teepee
Monday, November 4
Review at Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews
Tuesday, November 5
Review at The True Book Addict
Interview at Erika Mailman Blog
Wednesday, November 6
Review at CelticLady’s Reviews
Guest Post & Giveaway at The True Book Addict
Thursday, November 7
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!
Friday, November 8
Review at History and Women
Interview & Giveaway at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!
Monday, November 11
Review at A Bookish Affair
Review & Giveaway at Closed the Cover
Tuesday, November 12
Review & Giveaway at vvb32 Reads
Guest Post & Giveaway at A Bookish Affair
Wednesday, November 13
Review at The Musings of ALMYBNENR
Thursday, November 14
Review at So Many Books, So Little Time
Feature & Giveaway at Book-alicious Mama
Friday, November 15
Review at Books in the Burbs


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