Author: Mary Sharratt

Blog Book Tour | “The Dark Lady’s Mask” by Mary Sharratt

Posted Wednesday, 24 August, 2016 by jorielov , , 0 Comments

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Acquired Book By: I am a regular tour hostess for blog tours via Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours whereupon I am thankful to have been able to host such a diverse breadth of stories, authors and wonderful guest features since I became a hostess! I received a complimentary copy of “The Dark Lady’s Mask” direct from the publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

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Why I wanted to read this novel about William Shakespeare:

Ahead of sharing my love of Shakespeare, I am celebrating the return of being able to read a novel of Mary Sharratt for review on Jorie Loves A Story! Whilst I was a 1st Year Book Blogger (observed my 3rd blog birthday earlier this month on the 6th of August), I had the pleasure of joy reading Illuminations: {A novel of Hildegard von Bingen} as my debut review for Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours in November, 2013! The novel introduced me to an enriched version of reading biographies – an introduction that would carry me forward into the wonderful world of what I refer to as ‘Biographical Historical Fiction’; a mainstay of my reading queues! As routed through this category of interest!

From that foundation, I started to seek out traditional biographies and memoirs, under the new vein of interest called ‘Creative Non-Fiction’ where the stories are threaded through an emotional contextual core of narrative. For you see, if I hadn’t first read Illuminations all the lovelies I’ve been discovering since might not have alighted in my hands to read. Mary Sharratt truly opened my mind and eyes to how a story could be told whilst peering back into the historical past through a living history of a person who once lived. Her style of the craft is quite acutely realistic for the time periods she’s exploring; she has a conviction of setting with a lifeblood of drawing characters out of the wells of history to give us a resounding portrait of ‘who once lived’ can live once again in our own imaginations.

You see, I fell in love with reading Shakespeare when I was fourteen; prior to that year, (as a freshman in high school) I knew of the Bard far more than I had read his works. I was smitten by the idea of what a Shakespearean play would contain but I had not started reading his works until it became required reading. Ironic, no? Of those readings (Romeo & Juliet & Julius Caesar), it was my readings of Caesar that staid with me the most! I liked the tenacity of the piece and the guttingly humanistic emotional tides ebbing in and out of the realisation of how the conspirators befell a leader. There was such a lot of dramatic eclipse in that back-story, I daresay, right then and there, I should have realised how much I would come to appreciate reading Historical Fiction! If only hindsight were available,..

I was gifted a portable collection of Shakespeare’s works for my four and twenty birthday, a fact that isn’t lost on me now that I’m in the latter years of my twentytens; of which selections of plausible readings are listed on my own Classics Club List where they lie in wait for me to soak inside their stories. It isn’t that I have balked at reading more Shakespeare, it’s the mere fact I simply haven’t felt in ‘the mood’ to re-enter his works. There are moments where I distinctively feel literature is based on our moods; this clearly is one of them! Another example would be my distance from the ghost stories of Heather Graham; for me, those require a certain atmosphere to enjoy (i.e. thunderstorms).

As so much has become disputed and/or proved in regards to Shakespeare’s legacy and identity, I felt it was proper time to delve into a portion of the history surrounding him I haven’t yet learnt of first-hand. This is where reading Biographical HistFic is especially fun for me! I get to tuck inside the research and the visionary plausibilities of where known fact and supposition reside to paint an image of ‘what could have been’ and very much could honestly be the living testament of a person who lived so very long ago!

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Blog Book Tour | “The Dark Lady’s Mask” by Mary SharrattThe Dark Lady's Mask
by Mary Sharratt
Source: Publisher via Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

Shakespeare in Love meets Shakespeare’s Sister in this novel of England’s first professional woman poet and her collaboration and love affair with William Shakespeare.

London, 1593. Aemilia Bassano Lanier is beautiful and accomplished, but her societal conformity ends there. She frequently cross-dresses to escape her loveless marriage and to gain freedoms only men enjoy, but a chance encounter with a ragged, little-known poet named Shakespeare changes everything.

Aemilia grabs at the chance to pursue her long-held dream of writing and the two outsiders strike up a literary bargain. They leave plague-ridden London for Italy, where they begin secretly writing comedies together and where Will falls in love with the beautiful country — and with Aemilia, his Dark Lady. Their Italian idyll, though, cannot last and their collaborative affair comes to a devastating end. Will gains fame and fortune for their plays back in London and years later publishes the sonnets mocking his former muse. Not one to stand by in humiliation, Aemilia takes up her own pen in her defense and in defense of all women.

The Dark Lady’s Mask gives voice to a real Renaissance woman in every sense of the word.

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to Riffle

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 9780544300767

Also by this author: Illuminations: {A novel of Hildegard von Bingen}

Genres: Biographical Fiction, Historical Fiction


Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

on 19th April, 2016

Format: Hardcover Edition

Pages: 416

Published ByHoughton Mifflin Harcourt (@HMHCo)

Converse via: #TheDarkLadysMask, #Shakespeare + #HistFic
Available Formats: Hardcover, Trade Paperback & Ebook

Read about Aemilia Bassano Lanier via Poetry Foundation

Read Ms Sharratt’s blog post about The Dark Lady’s Mask via Feminism & Religion

About Mary Sharratt

Mary Sharratt

MARY SHARRATT is an American writer who has lived in the Pendle region of Lancashire, England, for the past seven years. The author of the critically acclaimed novels Summit Avenue, The Real Minerva, and The Vanishing Point, Sharratt is also the co-editor of the subversive fiction anthology Bitch Lit, a celebration of female antiheroes: strong women who break all the rules.

Read More

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • 2016 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge
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Posted Wednesday, 24 August, 2016 by jorielov in 16th Century, Aemilia Bassano Lanier, Biographical Fiction & Non-Fiction, Bits & Bobbles of Jorie, Blog Tour Host & Reviewer, British Literature, Classical Literature, England, Historical Fiction, Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours, Historical Mystery, Historical Romance, Inspired By Author OR Book, Inspired by Stories, William Shakespeare

tCC (the Classics Club) | The #Classics Spin #8 eek! too wicked awesome for words! my first tCC Spin!

Posted Friday, 7 November, 2014 by jorielov , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , 11 Comments

The Classics Club badge by Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story

Official Blurb & Rules: 

It’s time for another Classics Spin for any who are interested. What is the spin?

It’s easy. At your blog, by next Monday, November 10, list your choice of any twenty books you’ve left to read from your Classics Club list — in a separate post.

This is your Spin List. You have to read one of these twenty books in November & December. (Details follow.) So, try to challenge yourself. For example, you could list five Classics Club books you are dreading/hesitant to read, five you can’t WAIT to read, five you are neutral about, and five free choice (favorite author, rereads, ancients — whatever you choose.)

Next Monday, we’ll post a number from 1 through 20. The challenge is to read whatever book falls under that number on your Spin List, by January 5, 2015. We’ll have a check in here in January, to see who made it the whole way and finished the spin book.

Try to challenge yourself: list five you are dreading/hesitant to read, five you can’t WAIT to read, five you are neutral about, and five free choice (favorite author, rereads, ancients — whatever you choose.)

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5 Choices to Celebrate my participation in Sci Fi November: (SPIN 1-5)

  1. The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
  2. A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge
  3. The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson
  4. Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson
  5. Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke

5 Choices of Novels I am trepideriously curious about reading: (SPIN 6-10)

  1. The Murders of the Rue Morgue by Edgar Allan Poe
  2. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
  3. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë
  4. Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell
  5. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

10 Novels I am wicked happy about Reading Next: (SPIN 11-20)

  1. Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
  2. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
  3. The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe (Lucky 13!)
  4. Daughters of the Witching Hill by Mary Sharratt
  5. The Enchanted Life of Adam Hope by Rhonda Riley
  6. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
  7. The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender
  8. Emily of New Moon by L.M. Montgomery
  9. The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen
  10. The Mistress of Spices by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

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I honestly haven’t had the proper chance to participate too much in The Classics Club for the first year I am a tenure in the club! I felt for sure I’d be visiting a heap of lovely clubbers throughout the book blogosphere, whilst participating in all the wicked fun activities that the club puts together for us to enjoy! However, 2014 proved to be a bit more unique as time went forward and thus, I have found myself on the fringes of being in the tCC rather than being directly apart of the community itself! So much so, that I honestly only remember joining in for ONE (oy vie!) club check-in and recently and I only recently published my thoughts on a collection of ghost stories by Edith Wharton (one review in twelvemonths? ohh, dear!)!

I even lost the hours to join in the wicked joy of being a part of Austen in August — whilst reminding myself that Austen can be appreciated any month of the year, and this year, I am picking *December!* as my Austen in Reading month! I am going to be blogging my visits within the joy of my first readings of the following:

Mansfield Park | Northanger Abbey | Persuasion

And, if I hadn’t been tweeting about the ghost stories by Wharton, I never would have had the beautifully lovely convo with the Wharton enthused ladies I met who have inspired me to combine my readings of Austen with Wharton between December & January respectively! (shared the convo on my interview with Marcia DeSanctis) I am going to put together a bit of an official RAL for the authors, and encourage anyone who wants to join me to do so! Especially the ladies who were involved with the tweeting!

I read the tCC updates by email subscription, as when I first read about the Spin this time round, I misunderstood the deadline completely and therefore, when Lost Generation Reader sent out this tweet: 

I had the happy-go-lucky moment of realising I could FINALLY play the SPIN! It was a wicked sweet moment, truly! And, now without further adieu I wanted to explain my choices!

The Time Machine by H.G. Wells | One of my focus tracks during SFN is a continuation of exploring “Time Travel”, and as I had declared last year, I have never had the honour of reading the one book I always felt set the stage for the stories published after it’s release; The Time Machine is simply a classic on a lot of different levels! To read my thoughts on Time Travel as a Focus Track, please visit the post I wrote for SFN 2013 which will become expanded for SFN 2014 this weekend!

A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge | One of my favourite branches of science fiction in tv series & motion picture is Space Opera, except when I stop to consider how much I’ve honestly read within this sub-genre I come up short each time I try to set a list to mind. This is one of my choices to branch into a beloved section of the genre and to seek out stories that take place in the cosmos and beyond our share of the universe.

The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson | One of my favourite characters in the world of Star Trek is “Seven of Nine” who embraced the technology of nanos as much as giving credit to how a character you once would have feared has a way of transitioning into a character you are quite attached to rallying behind. This novel explores nanotechnology & artificial intelligence in a way that I felt befit exploring and taking a step outside the world of Trek.

Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson | Ever since I was quite young scientists have been attempting to sort out ‘the next planet’ where man can continue to thrive within the range of planets outside our obit. Mars was always on the top level of choices and somewhere within the race to settle ourselves on Mars and the pursuit of seeing how far we have gone to create a plausible way to move there; I became quite enthralled in the science articles and non-fiction works which defended the choice. Robinson’s series was found whilst I was caught up in the race for Mars.

Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke | Quite literally one of my regrets as a letter-writer was not reaching out by pen and paper to Mr Clarke who passed before I found the courage to draft a letter to him. The Rama series has been on my list of ‘next reads’ long before I discovered the online bookish culture and world of book bloggers; it felt fitting to include this on my first SPIN!

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The Murders of the Rue Morgue by Edgar Allan Poe | Although I established a newfound respect and admiration for Poe whilst reading Mrs. Poe on a blog tour earlier this year, I am still curiously cautious about reading his collective works! If any book would put me betwixt and between knowing whether or not I wanted to read it, this surely qualifies!

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh | Quite happily I found the newest adaption for this classic novel on dvd earlier in the year, and soon after I had joined tCC officially! It was one of two dvd collections based on classic novels I had hoped would not only encourage me to expand my tCC List but encourage me forward towards reading the classics on a more regularly basis! Clearly I sidestepped a bit from that goal, but there was always a twitch of anxiety to begin this one for me.

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë | My only attachment to the Brontë’ sisters is my readings of Jane Eyre which began during the Septemb-Eyre RAL in 2013; a RAL I had meant to continue forward with in step with the reading pace of my classically passionate friend Maggie (previously of ‘An American in France’ thus redefined as ‘Macarons & Paperbacks’) — yet haven’t yet found the hours to pick up from whence I left off! This includes an attempt to read Eyre during Horror October! Oy vie. I have had my eyes on her sisters for awhile and felt it was a fitting time to include one of them on this list; yet a bit daunting too, as I know their styles are entirely different from one another!

Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell | I am personally a champion & enthused reader of Gaskell without ever once reading one of her novels! I had an instant connection to Gaskell first and foremost as a fellow writer (the appreciation I am referencing here also applies to Austen) and then shifted into the merriment of a reader who was discovering the breadth of her work whilst researching the life she lived. This was actually a purchase request I turnt in at my local library whereupon they acquired a beautiful hardback copy of the novel and the BBC/Masterpiece PBS adaptation of the novel at the same time. In hindsight, I wanted to read the novel prior to seeing the mini-series yet I ended up seeing Part 1 of the mini-series and as I was left emotionally shattered I never picked up the book! I have since spoilt myself on spoilers and learnt at least that I can handle what happens in Part 2! Only just barely! Hence why this is under the 5 novels I’m a bit unsure if whether or not I’m ready to read them!

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy | I recently felt re-inspired to start reading War and Peace due to my recent visit with #LitChat where I had the pleasure of talking about the novel I have been attempting to read since February! In fact, my War and Peace main post will finally publish on my blog this weekend as I simply haven’t had the proper chance to conclude my thoughts on how I want to read it and why I felt 2014 was the right year to tackle the breadth that is Tolstoy! Therefore, this is an obvious choice for me to include under the thread of a ‘daunting’ read, as who tackles War and Peace followed by Anna Karenina!

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Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier | A lot of the books I want to read follow in sequence after reading Rebecca; within the last year alone I have stumbled across sequel authors and/or continuations of the story Du Maurier inspired from her original work. It is a novel I have wanted to start for a long time but I felt it might be the interesting to see if it comes up in the SPIN.

The Night Circus by Erin Morganstern | Of all the different start times I’ve tried to get into The Night Circus, it was last Christmas (2013) when I nearly found myself able to stay with the story! I heard a bit about this prior to becoming curious about reading it myself — but to be honest, I found it through my local library before anyone started to talk about it exclusively one way or the other. It is what I read on the opening pages that has kept my attention for nearly a full year! I want to know more of this story and perhaps now I can!?

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe | This was one of my personal gifts to myself for one of my birthdays, where I wanted to try to find a new author who was writing an incredible novel set in an era that either I had an interest to dig into more and/or was a new thread of story that held my attention as soon as I read the premise. Deliverance Dane fit that part of history where witch hunts and prejudice against people who were living a different life were running rampant against the truth of who they actually were.

Daughters of the Witching Hill by Mary Sharratt | Prior to reading Illuminations, I enjoyed learning more about the author via her website where I found a bit of a back-story on why she wrote Daughters of the Witching Hill and the measure of truth her own research yielded to become revealed on the historical women she rooted her story to focus on. It was such a captivating premise within an enriched part of the historical past that is not always given a focus in modern literature. I originally foresaw reading this alongside Deliverance Dane and will do so if one of them pops up in the SPIN!

The Enchanted Life of Adam Hope by Rhonda Riley | Even before one of the Mods for #LitChat approached me about conversing about reading this novel, I had already earmarked myself to read this particular title! This is another classic example of the beautiful books I discover through browsing my local library’s card catalogue! I get excited seeing which books are being added to the collection as a whole and which new authors are penning stories who write outside the regular releases to wink at you to read!

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith | Earlier in 2014 or late in 2013, I had the pleasure of seeing a motion picture adaptation of this on Turner Classic Movies (TCM), although at the time I hadn’t been aware of that fact! There was a turning point in the film where I sort of put the pieces together for myself, to where I realised the title of the film and the fact it was a film based off a novel I had already thought to add to my tCC List! As even back in 2013, I was planning the books I would include on the list once I had my blog set-up to where I could join!

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender | A library find I was uncertain at first if I truly wanted to read because it was such a clever story that steps outside it’s own shelving spot! I like stories which push themselves out of a ‘genre’ designation because at the end of the day, I thrive on the craft of stories and the gift of story-telling; to me a story’s genre selection is not as important as the story within the pages of the novel! As I was setting up this list I saw the title on my tCC List and felt, “Why not?”

Emily of New Moon by L.M. Montgomery | I honestly attempted to borrow this from a local library attached to a church I was attending in 2013 but the hours were not in my favour as the borrow time was limited. What fascinated me the most is there was a whole new series of novels by Montgomery I hadn’t discovered when I was younger! I am not sure how I missed Emily of New Moon when I devourted Anne of Green Gables!?

The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen + The Mistress of Spices by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni| For my last two selections I wanted to take a bit of a magical diversion in my reading selections as both The Sugar Queen & The Mistress of Spices are selections I made for reading more “Magical Realism”. They are not the only ones I choose to focus on for this SPIN either, but these two particular novels have enchanted me since I first breathed in their book synopsises and/or since I saw the film adaptation! There is a beautifully eloquent Bollywood inspired film for The Mistress of Spices (of which I have blogged about in the past) whose dream sequences, musical interludes, and the setting of the story at a spice market left me bewitched! I have wanted to read the novel ever since I first saw Aishwarya Rai on screen for the first time!

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Reader Interactive Question:

Are any of my SPIN choices a novel that interests you?

Have you previously read one of them? IF so, include a link in your comment!

How do you curate your SPIN lists for tCC?

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UPDATE: 10th Monday, November 2014

Ooh, this is seriously beyond exciting!! Not only did I get a book I had put on my ‘short list’ of hopefuls to come out of the SPIN *but!* the tCC SPIN # is my LUCKY 13! I am over the moon in wicked sweet joy for this tCC SPIN READ! Ooh, boy! I’m simply bursting! Talk about a book I’ve been wanting to read for half an age and never could get myself motivated to pick it up!? Ooh, boy!

Lest I mention the tCC published a stellar survey for members!

Monday this week simply ROCKS!

For three key reasons:

  1. My SPIN # Choice is bang-on brilliant!
  2. I’m blogging & sharing my thoughts on book 2 of
    Piercing the Veil this evening!
  3. A new fun-loving survey about *books!* & my admiration for the *classics!*

How’s your Classic SPIN Monday going!?

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The first 5 Classic Science Fiction Book Selections are part of my contribution of:

SFN 2014 Participant badge created by Jorie in Canva

{SOURCE: Wildlife photography by Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story, badge edited & created in PicMonkey by Jorie. Sci Fi Month badge created by Jorie in Canva.Post dividers badge by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2014.

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Posted Friday, 7 November, 2014 by jorielov in Blogosphere Events & Happenings, Bookish Discussions, British Literature, Children's Classics, Children's Literature, Classic Horror, Classic Mystery, Classic Science Fiction, Classical Literature, Crime Fiction, Gothic Literature, Historical Fiction, Library Catalogues & Databases, Library Find, Literary Fiction, Literature of India, Local Libraries | Research Libraries, RALs | Thons via Blogs, Reading Challenges, Sci-Fi November, Science Fiction, tCC The Classics Club, tCC The Classics Club SPIN, Time Travel

*Blog Book Tour*: Illuminations by Mary Sharratt

Posted Friday, 1 November, 2013 by jorielov , , 1 Comment

Parajunkee Designs

Illuminations: {A novel of Hildegard von Bingen} by Mary Sharratt

Iluminations by Mary Sharratt Book Tour HFVBT
Published ByHoughton Mifflin Harcourt, 9 October, 2012
Published By: Mariner Books, 15 October, 2013 [paperback edition]
Official Author Websites: Sharratt on Facebook; Sharratt on Twitter;
Personal Website and Blog.
Available Formats: Paperback, Hardback, and E-Book
Page Count: 288

Acquired Book By: Winning a contest adverted through “Shelf Awareness for Readers” bi-weekly newsletter, October 2012. I received the hardcover book direct from the publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt without obligation to post a review. When I started to work with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours, I made a request to join this book tour, as due to different reasons I have not yet had the pleasure of reading this book! I thought it would be lovely to participate in a blog book tour on behalf of a book I was rather intrigued to start reading! I was thankful to be selected to participate on the tour! I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts herein.

Original Interest to Read: I originally had discovered the author and the book on Book Browse prior to seeing the contest on Shelf Awareness. I was swept away by the research, the passion, and the dedication Sharratt enfused into the book “Illuminations” as it was not only a historical biography of a woman very few of us would have uncovered without her efforts, but it felt like a living testament of how the strength of a woman can make a marked change on the world around her. I have always celebrated the lives of women who stand up for social injustice as well as indoctrinated wrongs that others’ might be too passive to attack themselves. As women, we’re given a beautiful gift of being able to use our enlightened minds for the power of positive change, and I felt as I read the synopsis and words on this book, that that is exactly the type of story that would envelope me if I read Hildegard’s story.

Design HMary SharrattAuthor Biography:

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.

Book Synopsis:

Skillfully weaving historical fact with psychological insight and vivid imagination, Illuminations brings to life one of the Illuminations by Mary Sharrattmost 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.

Design H

Out of Darkness and Anguish,…

The opening bits of Illuminations, is guttingly honest and real, as Hildegard is in her elder years of seventy on the brink of eighty, whilst on the precipice of a vengeful storm requiring sufferance! Her longanimity of the impeding darkness that is about to swirl around herself and the daughters’ in her charge is of impeccable clarity! How she endeavoured to have the forethought to circumvent the discretion of a buried soul with the full knowledge of how severely the act would affect her, is beyond comprehension; except to say, her raw courage was fully illumine from a source greater than the wrath of man! The quotation that Sharratt used as preface to Chapter One, taken from Hildegard’s own writings on how she foresaw the Feminine Divine is stirringly moving to the point of feeling an inward sense of calm. Which you reflect upon whilst reading where we enter her life at such an arduous time that bespeaks a greater evocable merit of trust. I had a forbearance of knowing, that her humble protection of humanity will become the forefront of her life.

Her solitude of being cast into a brick tiered wall of the Anchorite chamber made me lament about how at such a young age of eight she was sent into darkness to seek out the light. Her anguish for losing her innocence and childhood vexed her as she grew accustomed to being shrouded in a tomb. Her only outside contact was through a grate and a window on high that allowed in bits of the outside world through its portal. I wondered how she fought her discourse to crave into an inward spiral and instead, constantly found the ability to dig deeper and seek out the light. I think if she had not been blessed with the orbs (visions), she might have lost herself in that dark space whilst she spent her young years on a sojourn for learning and knowledge. Her life lessons came to her abruptly at an age where most of us are still exploring our environments, testing the wills of independence, and finding our voice, confidence, and the path of interest we wish to walk as we age.

To illumine the mind and strengthen the spirit,…

I have always known of the interconnectedness of humanity, the natural world, and the realm behind the veil of this world which is the gateway to spirit world. Each of us is connected to each other and to what is not yet understood though believed to be in existence on faith alone. What I appreciated about reading Hilegard’s story is that she is touching on the elemental truths that each spiritual person comes to realise and accept: the circle of life and of time, the abundance of the interlocking connections, and how we are only in the infancy of our understandings of the greater whole that we strive to obtain whilst we walk Earth.

By examining her life through this biographic exposition, we are striving to become closer to understanding what she came to understand herself. Each of us are given gifts in life to share and pass down, small legacies of goodwill, hope, peace, love, charity, and grace. We tap into where our lifepath is leading us whilst we are openly receptive to where we are being guided to go next. Hilegard was unique in this, as she viewed herself as a flawed human who made more mistakes than deemed repentable, and yet, she could not help acknowledge that she had become a vessel of truth, as chosen as her destiny to give others’ insight that they were not privy too. She reminds me of women I have heard about prior to her, who never felt they were good enough to be placed in a position of importance. How humbling it is then, to realise that these are the women and spiritual beings who are called upon to do the most good during their lifetime!? To ingenuate a plausibility of which most of us might forego or bypass whilst caught up in the clatterment of living our lives!?

A wordsmith of Divine Grace:

The words in which consume Illuminations, are set on a higher keeling of intellect, that draw the reader forward and back into a time whereupon the essence of explaining the Divine in singular breaths of words was not as readily forthright to convey, as it was a time in need of edifying the truth by which was shown to the limited few who could hear the Voice. Sharratt has undertaken a gift for channeling the words of which Hildegard herself might have used to express not only the experiences of her life, but of the time in which she lived. The story begins in 1177, set on the cusp between the 12th and 13th centuries, in a time of harrowing and clandestine turmoil. And, yet Sharratt has a way of speaking through the essence of Hildegard as though we can be transported back into her timescape, wholly aware of her surroundings, and seeing everything unfold as it once did for her. Including glimmerments of her internal thoughts and emotional angst. There are poetic ruminations throughout the text that draw you into the story and let’s your imagination not skip forward off the page your eyes are consuming.

Hilegard’s humbleness is infused with her fortitude, for not only being a woman in high regard in her abbey but to have reached an apex of celebrity amongst her peers in the Church and Orders, due to her gift for visionary prophecies. Her elucidate nature of being a woman who thinks before she speaks, and one who doesn’t falter in will when she is taken unawares proves that she internally had strengthened herself long ago in her younger years to be anchored to her faith.

Review of Illuminations:

Hilegard von Bingen was a Renaissance Woman ahead of her time, given the hour of her birth and the compass point of her life. Alongside da Vinci, she embarked on not only ascertaining a living truth of Latin and Religion, but of each interconnected subject and topic that would cross sect with an interest that was at the tip of importance for knowledge of what would become imparted to her through visionary grace. She was a formidable woman whose humble nature did not wish to extract her weaknesses, but rather shed light on them for what they were and to utilize her strengths when necessity demanded them.

As a young child growing up surrounded by the Crusades, she was given her first taste of the visions that would later set the course of her life. I was touched by how genuinely innocent they were and how frequent they would visit her, hoping to find a way for her to yield to her gift. I’d imagine that most youngsters at the age of five might rather attempt to ‘fit in’ than to be cast out as an enigma! For this, I musefully could understand her reasoning! How she drew upon a strength of resolve to survive her cast into an Anchorite Order at the age of eight, I do not readily know! Yet, she embodied a pure caste of curiosity, which strove for her to further her knowledge, and learn as much as her mind could encompass. In that regard, I believe her will to learn became her first saving grace whilst she was entombed as an Anchorite.

I was not quite prepared for how long her term as an Anchorite would last, as she was well into her mid-thirties when I realised just how long she had been in captivity! She even sacrificed her own freedom to save two young girls whose plight in life would have been doubly worse than had they joined her. My heart ached for all three of them, and for the fourth, Jutta who long ago had given up on living, wretched by a transgression made against her and blackened against all light and love. They had few moments of joy, but for the most part, their lives were endured by an endless see of ritual, rite, and prayer.

Hilegard’s inner resolve to find peace with her faith and with her lot in life is a testament to how we each struggle to make sense of the circumstances that arise that lay obstacles in our path. Each of us is walking our own path towards understanding, for where we are meant to live as much as how we are meant to live. Her solitude from the outside world provided her with wisdom that even she, I dare not think, could fully grasp or understand. She was given visions of knowledge that fall outside the realm of what we would regularly be led to see. Her maternal nature I think, is one of her greatest gifts, as she unearthed of all the attributes that we are bestowed it’s our ability to love and give love that counts the most on high.

In the midst of lost hope, she found liberty and justice. Her heart swelled for the freedom which she was finally granted to live as a proper nun, rather than an entombed Anchorite. I could relate to her attachment to the natural world and the calm balm of insight and mirth that walking in nature can give you. She found God’s light and joy nestled amongst the woods, herbs, and flowers. As much as basking in the glow of the warming sun. How I have oft found myself swept into warm embrace that walking in nature can afford! If we look keenly, we shall see His light wherever we turn.

Illluminations is an apt title to give this story, because it is also its central theme. The luminescent purity of God’s spoken word igniting itself into her mind, heart, and soul. And, yet, Illuminations also spoke to me of the whispers of truth and guidance that sometimes we try to sweep away, not willing to accept them for what they are and for the reason by which they were given to us. I think the best gift of her life is to remain true to ourselves, but yield to the will of God even if the path He is placing in front of us has its share of tribulations, it’s the bits we cannot yet see that come through on the other side of our discomfort that lead to our restitution.

A note of gratitude:

I am always fervently thankful for authors who conduct intensive research to breathe life into their stories with such an exquisite hand of probable narrative, that when you go to read a biographical fiction accountment of a life once lived, that there are enough pieces and fragments of the person etched into the text your reading. I am thankful to say, it would appear that Sharratt is one such writer who is happily consumed and entrenched in the work that goes into fortifying the story with historical remnants and facts. I haven’t read other biographies of Hilegard von Bingen, as this is the first book that tipped my hat of interest towards learning more about her, but the voice of Hilegard inside Illuminations is one that begs you to give her a chance to say her peace. She’s an unassuming woman whose faith tested her in ways that not all of us could have endured. She appears to have longed for a bit of normalcy even within the confines of her vows, which thankfully, if history and fact are correct in this account, she at least found a bit of that when the bricks of her hidden prison were taken down.

Sharratt gives you a lot to chew on whilst your reading, from the way in which she paints the visions to life, to the contemplations of the human spirit, the Divine Grace, and the elements of faith and spirituality itself. She gives you a hearty tome of reflection and presents a woman who lived in touch with the Feminine Divine. I marked this as “Inspirational Fiction” as I think it befits that declaration as much as “Historical Fiction” and “Biographical Fiction”, as religion and spirituality are at the core and heart of this story, yet the time in which she lived is so far removed from modern eras it’s historically inclined to be reflective of how we perceive the 12th Century through the modern lens we approach it by.

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“Illuminations” Book Trailer by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

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Converse About “Illuminations”
via the Discussion Guide:

[ IF you have read the book, I encourage you to open a conversation
in the comments section below!]

Illuminations: A Novel of Hildegard von Bingen by Mary Sharratt — Discussion Questions

by Houghton Miffton Harcourt

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The “Iluminations” Virtual Book Tour Roadmap:
  1. 14 October: Review @ The Maiden’s Court
  2. 15 October: Review (from 2012) Interview @ Unabridged Chick
  3. 16 October: Review @ Bitches with Books
  4. 17 October: Review @ Flashlight Commentary
  5. 17 October: Review @ A Bookish Libraria
  6. 18 October: Interview @ Flashlight Commentary
  7. 21 October: Review @ Book of Secrets
  8. 22 October: Review @ The Most Happy Reader
  9. 22 October: Review @ Book Lovers Paradise
  10. 23 October: Review @ Books, Belles, and Beaux
  11. 23 October: Review @ Confessions of an Avid Reader
  12. 24 October: Review @ Just One More Chapter
  13. 24 October: Guest Post @ Books, Belles, and Beaux
  14. 25 October: Interview @ Just One More Chapter
  15. 28 October: Review @ Bloggin’ bout Books
  16. 29 October: Review @ Griperangs Bookmarks
  17. 29 October: Guest Post @ HF Book Muse – News
  18. 30 October: Review @ Ageless Pages Reviews
  19. All Saint’s Day: Review @ Jorie Loves A Story
  20. All Saint’s Day: Review @ Broken Teepee
  21. 4 November: Review @ Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews
  22. 5 November: Review @ The True Book Addict
  23. 5 November: Interview @ Erika Mailman Blog
  24. 6 November: Review @ CelticLady’s Reviews
  25. 6 November: Guest Post @ The True Book Addict
  26. 7 November: Review @ Oh, For the Hook of a Book!
  27. 8 November: Review @ History and Women
  28. 8 November: Interview @ Oh, For the Hook of a Book!
  29. 11 November: Review @ A Bookish Affair
  30. 11 November: Review @ Closed the Cover
  31. 12 November: Review @ vvb32reads
  32. 12 November: Guest Post @ A Bookish Affair
  33. 13 November: Review @ The Musings of ALMYBNENR
  34. 14 November: Review @ So Many Books, So Little Time
  35. 14 November: Feature @ Book-alicious Mama
  36. 15 November: Review @ Books in the Burbs
  37. 16 November: Book Spotlight @ Passages to the Past
IF you want to follow the conversation by Twitter, please tune into: #IlluminationsTour There is also a Twitter share button below this post for your convenience as well.

Be sure to scope out upcoming tours I will be hosting with:

Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours - HFVBTon my Bookish Events Featured on JLAS

{SOURCES: Cover art of “Illuminations” as well as Mary Sharratt’s photograph and biography, the blog tour badge, and the logo banner for HFVBT were all provided by Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours and used with permission. The book trailer by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt as well as the discussion guide via Scribd had either URL share links or coding which made it possible to embed this media portal to this post, and I thank them for the opportunity to share more about this novel and the author who penned it. Post dividers were provided by Shabby Blogs, who give bloggers free resources to add personality to their blogs. Blog tour badge provided by Parajunkee to give book bloggers definition on their blogs. }

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2013.

Related Articles:

Hildegard of Bingen – (en.wikipedia.org)

Polymath – (en.wikipedia.org)

Doctor of the Church – (en.wikipedia.org)

Primary Source Breaththrough! – Hilegard’s Letter to the Prelates of Mainz (symphonialisestanima.wordpress.com)

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Posted Friday, 1 November, 2013 by jorielov in 12th Century, Benedictine Abbess, Biographical Fiction & Non-Fiction, Blog Tour Host & Reviewer, Book Browse, Christian Mystic, Composer, Early Middle Ages [the Dark Ages] (1001-1300), High Middle Ages (1000-1299), Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours, Inspirational Fiction & Non-Fiction, Nun, Philosopher, Polymath, Scribd, Shelf Awareness, Writer

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