Tag: Illuminations: A novel of Hildegard von Bingen

Blog Book Tour | Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth a #fairytale re-telling of Rapunzel by #BrothersGrimm

Posted Thursday, 9 October, 2014 by jorielov , , , , , , 3 Comments

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Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth

Published By: Minotaur Books (@MinotaurBooks), (a Thomas Donne book)
imprints of St. Martin’s Publishing Group, which is now a part of MacMillian Publishers
Official Author Websites:  Site | Blog @KateForsyth | Facebook

Available Formats: Hardback, Trade Paperback, & Ebook

Converse via: #BitterGreensBlogTour, #Rapunzel, #FairyTale, & #BitterGreens

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Acquired Book By: I was selected to be a tour stop on the “Bitter Greens” virtual book tour through Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours. I received a complimentary copy of the book direct from the publisher St. Martin’s Press, in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

Inspired to Read:

I grew up inside the world of fairy-tales like most young children whose imagination is captured by the fantasy worlds a fairy-tale can generate and explode inside their minds and hearts. I did not always read the direct stories from literature, but opted instead for the motion picture versions and/or re-tellings of the same tale told from a different writer; as part of me always felt that the Brothers Grimm fairy-tales were for someone a bit older than I was at the time I had stumbled across them. I did, of course, read stories like “Little Red Riding Hood” or others that were in collection anthologies for children, but I never truly paid any mind or attention to who was writing them as I liked reading each of the short stories in succession of each other. I do know I appreciated Hans Christian Anderson as a child, but I am not sure which of his were my ultimate favourite either; I will have to re-explore his works at some point down the road.

Even if I heard the stories told aloud by family members or watched an adaptation on the screen, the entire world always fit quite happily inside my mind’s eye, as I liked the lessons stitched into the fabric of the stories themselves. I always liked seeing how the characters worked themselves out of situations and found true strength in the midst of difficulty. The fact there were more happy endings than there were unresolved cliffhangers was a big draw as well, as despite the obstacles that arose, it was quite wicked to find they could live peacefully in the end.

One of my favourite adaptations is “Ever After” on behalf of “Cinderella”, although there are a few other adaptations I appreciate as well. I am not remembering which versions of Rapunzel I am familiar with but when I first learnt of this novel, I was attracted to the deeply wrought story as an underlay to the main thread of context for the well-known fairy-tale. I do remember I used to tell different variants of the story whilst I was in elementary school, as it was a bit of a game we used to play at lunch. We were either re-inventing different outcomes for Rapunzel or Rumpelstiltskin; when we weren’t fondly trying to trip each other up remembering our US Presidents with their various nicknames to help clue us to which one was which. Elementary school games were filled with fond memories as it was one of the few times my classmates and I truly came together as one for the pure joy of ‘sharing’ and being full of ‘laughter’.

I did get a kick out of watching “Tangled” which I realise now was a Rapunzel variant of the story, but then again I grew up on Disney animated films; I tend to keep my eye on the releases that remind me of my childhood.

Blog Book Tour | Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth a #fairytale re-telling of Rapunzel by #BrothersGrimmBitter Greens
by Kate Forsyth

The amazing power and truth of the Rapunzel fairy tale comes alive for the first time in this breathtaking tale of desire, black magic and the redemptive power of love.

French novelist Charlotte-Rose de la Force has been banished from the court of Versailles by the Sun King, Louis XIV, after a series of scandalous love affairs. At the convent, she is comforted by an old nun, Sœur Seraphina, who tells her the tale of a young girl who, a hundred years earlier, is sold by her parents for a handful of bitter greens…

After Margherita’s father steals parsley from the walled garden of the courtesan Selena Leonelli, he is threatened with having both hands cut off, unless he and his wife relinquish their precious little girl. Selena is the famous red-haired muse of the artist Tiziano, first painted by him in 1512 and still inspiring him at the time of his death. She is at the center of Renaissance life in Venice, a world of beauty and danger, seduction and betrayal, love and superstition.

Locked away in a tower, Margherita sings in the hope that someone will hear her. One day, a young man does.

Award-winning author Kate Forsyth braids together the stories of Margherita, Selena, and Charlotte-Rose, the woman who penned Rapunzel as we now know it, to create what is a sumptuous historical novel, an enchanting fairy tale retelling, and a loving tribute to the imagination of one remarkable woman.

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to LibraryThing

Also by this author:

Genres: Fairy-Tale Re-Telling, Historical Fiction


Published by A Thomas Donne Book

on 23rd September, 2014 (in the United States)

Pages: 496

Author Biography:

Kate Forsyth

Kate Forsyth wrote her first novel at the age of seven, and is now the internationally bestselling & award-winning author of thirty books, ranging from picture books to poetry to novels for both adults and children. She was recently voted one of Australia’s Favourite 20 Novelists, and has been called ‘one of the finest writers of this generation. She is also an accredited master storyteller with the Australian Guild of Storytellers, and has told stories to both children and adults all over the world.

Her most recent book for adults is a historical novel called ‘The Wild Girl’, which tells the true, untold love story of Wilhelm Grimm and Dortchen Wild, the young woman who told him many of the world’s most famous fairy tales. Set during the Napoleonic Wars, ‘The Wild Girl’ is a story of love, war, heartbreak, and the redemptive power of storytelling, and was named the Most Memorable Love Story of 2013.

She is probably most famous for ‘Bitter Greens’, a retelling of the Rapunzel fairy tale interwoven with the dramatic life story of the woman who first told the tale, the 17th century French writer, Charlotte-Rose de la Force. ‘Bitter Greens’ has been called ‘the best fairy tale retelling since Angela Carter’, and has been nominated for a Norma K. Hemming Award, the Aurealis Award for Best Fantasy Fiction, and a Ditmar Award.

Her most recent book for children is ‘Grumpy Grandpa’, a charming picture book that shows people are not always what they seem.

Since ‘The Witches of Eileanan’ was named a Best First Novel of 1998 by Locus Magazine, Kate has won or been nominated for numerous awards, including a CYBIL Award in the US. She’s also the only author to win five Aurealis awards in a single year, for her Chain of Charms series – beginning with ‘The Gypsy Crown’ – which tells of the adventures of two Romany children in the time of the English Civil War. Book 5 of the series, ‘The Lightning Bolt’, was also a CBCA Notable Book.

Kate’s books have been published in 14 countries around the world, including the UK, the US, Russia, Germany, Japan, Turkey, Spain, Italy, Poland and Slovenia. She is currently undertaking a doctorate in fairytale retellings at the University of Technology, having already completed a BA in Literature and a MA in Creative Writing.

Kate is a direct descendant of Charlotte Waring, the author of the first book for children ever published in Australia, ‘A Mother’s Offering to her Children’. She lives by the sea in Sydney, Australia, with her husband, three children, and many thousands of books.

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On reading a re-telling ahead of an original canon:

I clearly have stepped outside my own preferences in reading this past year, as previously I would attempt to read an original canon version of a story prior to picking up a re-telling of the same story. I have found that due to different reasons time doesn’t always allow the luxury of going back to the canon, but rather only allows me to read the book at hand. On the other side of the coin, there have been a few times where I felt not reading the original work might befit me moreso than if I had, such as the case with Sense & Sensibility: A Latter-Day Tale and my forthcoming review of The Monogram Murders (Hercules Poirot). As this particular story is a Brothers Grimm, I was more akin to yearning to read a re-telling than perhaps the original, as I always felt the Grimm brothers wrote stories a bit more intense than I might be drawn to read on a regular basis. At the heart of their stories, I was always wholly entranced but to the actually reading of them? I was always a bit on the fence of where I fit with my inclinations. Realising I had known enough about Rapunzel to insert myself into the flow of the novel, is why I settled myself into the pace Forsyth was generating from the opening of the story and onward. I would be curious if other readers make the same choices I do, or if they have a preference for reading canons prior to after canons; it is such a curious situation to have and I find myself yielding a bit when it comes to where my preferences lie on the issue.

My Review of Bitter Greens:

The Abbey into which Charlotte-Rose de la Force enters has such a strict rule base to follow, that I was curious how she could abide by a quarter of their order’s restrictions when she was entering the convent a free-spirit of the 17th Century. The rules of her day were quite forthright as she was simply another woman cast into an Abbey at the voice of the King, as she was no longer useful nor wanted at Court. The harshness of the sentence was in the fact that most of the women who were forced into this life did not go willingly but rather begrudgingly yet they had little recourse to pursue a different course. In many ways, at the beginning of this novel I started to think back on my reading of Illuminations as the circumstances of being cast into a particular closed off from society insular world was highly familiar. On this level, Bitter Greens is a historical fiction arc of a story set against the back-drop of a biographical fiction narrative, as we are learning about the story of Rapunzel through the writer who gave birth to the idea that has staid with us for generations.

The ache of Mademoiselle’s heart clenched into a tight knot as her new cloister environment did not permit her to continue her writings or her stories from being spilt out of her quill. I was tucked up in curiosity at this revelation to sort out how her story of Rapunzel would come to flourish inside such a stark and dank place where the creative arts were discouraged. It was a bit striking to me that they did not want their sisters to take up a hobby or have a personal vice to keep their own sanity amongst the duties they would endure – so many hours would stack against the clock, and to have a bit of a reprieve in my mind would have settled the heart to endurance.

One particular part of the story I was rather keen on involves beekeeping and the wisdom of knowledge the apothecarist at the convent shares with Charlotte-Rose during a measure of repentance she owes for stepping out of line. Sister Seraphina keeps not only a full garden for her sisters but an active hive, where she cares for her bees with both love and reverence for their culture. I have always appreciated learning more about bees as their struggle to survive is always so very perilous of a plight. Inserting this thread of Sister Seraphina was most delightful, as it spoke to how some of the sisters carved out a bit of peace for themselves even within the walls of a ruled life of order. This was a turning point for me in the story, as I started to feel attached to both characters as warmly as I have felt towards Hildegard.

The origins of Rapunzel are presented as a symphony of a lived life from an era prior to Charlotte-Rose’s own, as told to her by Sister Seraphina whilst they toiled in the garden. What I found so incredible about this bit of traction of where the inspiration for the story of Rapunzel was spun from is how ironic it was for Charlotte-Rose to find herself putting roots into her time at the abbey. She was as indifferent to the life of service as Hildegard (there are a lot of cross-references for me in my mind between both stories!), irked beyond her ire to make peace with her situation, and yet had a bit of a warming glow towards acknowledging that there could be a way towards happiness despite her emotions as a small flicking candle lighting the flame. Her solace was always hinged to stories and the craft of telling stories in a voice that carried the mirth of joy of having them being told. She wandered off into her mind as soon as a measure of shadow and ill will would work itself into her path or affect those she knew around her. The stories were a freedom from reality to help her mind heal from what it did not want to acknowledge as being real as much as to calm her nerves from feeling overwhelmed by something she witnessed or heard. The infusion of how she worked her words into her own creative voice for stories is an outlet of her truest strength. Seeing how this originated and how it percolated at the abbey was the kind of insight that we do not always perceive on behalf of writers of fairy-tales and mythologies. I am not sure how much was based on actual knowledge and how much was creatively inspired, but the notion of where it all stemmed from was beyond fascinating to read in Bitter Greens!

Charlotte-Rose has been given the rarest of gifts: the chance to thread her memories through the spindle of her mind and takeaway insight into how she became the woman she is and how the choices she made affected her future. The tome of wonder you will find within this novel is only one part of the whole of Charlotte-Rose’s life and an expedition of a theory of how she came to fulfill her destiny as a spinning of stories and telling tales full of incredible wisdom. There is a particular surprise for all of us who have travelled down the rabbit hole with Kate Forsyth seeking Rapunzel and finding someone unexpectedly present instead. I felt like smirking when I realised the beauty of Forsyth’s choice and the level of eloquence she stitched into this story overall. I was quite struck by the realisation that from the moment I first opened Bitter Greens to the moment I closed the ARC, I was taken completely unawares and most delighted by the experience!

On the writing style of Kate Forsyth:

Somehow I had forgotten that the novel The Wild Girl was the first novel I had come across by Kate Forsyth at my local library – a book I had checked out a few times yet had not had the honour of reading in full. Forsyth puts dual empathsis on the story of Charlotte-Rose and of Margherita (the inspiration behind Rapunzel) throughout Bitter Greens; owning to each vein of the narrative when writing from one fusion of the story to the other. I found myself drawn closer into the plight of Charlotte-Rose during this reading as I think for me, I found a connection in her that I had discovered whilst reading Hildegard (from Illuminations), and thereby my mind simply alighted onto her path a bit more than Margherita’s at this time. I will have to see after I have the pleasure of reading the Brothers Grimm tale of Rapunzel if I feel more attachment to the passages involving Margherita.

The breadth of her vision for this re-telling is quite impressive, as she didn’t just present a new way of seeing Rupunzel but rather to bridge the gap between the fairy-tale, the reality of two women who truly lived, and the way in which the story has evolved through each generation who fell in sync with it’s telling. She has given us a hearty adaptation whose layers curate in your mind and encourage the reader to take a second reading to fully absolve through the multi-dimensional story in full earnest. I know I will be seeing how my impression of the duality shifts and evolves, but for a first reading I was properly enchanted and spellbound. This is a gutting story-line of perseverance and fortitude whilst dealing with tribulations that no one would soon want to find themselves in the midst of personally.

I do highly recommend that readers might consider reading Illuminations before they read Bitter Greens, as there are instances of overlap between situations found within both stories; for me personally, some of those instances were better understood because I had read Illuminations last year.
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Bitter Greens Book Trailer via Kate Forsyth

Inspired to Share: The placards and music presented in this impressive book trailer elude to the passages that will be found within the pages of “Bitter Greens”; as this is not your ordinary fairy-tale nor is it a re-telling that you’re expecting to find; the layers of story and of time itself through different eras and recollective memories is what helps enchant you as you read; but it is the sheer vision of Forsyth to spin the tale as only she could give it life that stays with you. Consider this trailer a bit of a ‘teaser’ of what the novel will yield!

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.com
The Virtual Road Map for “Bitter Greens” can be found here:

Bitter Greens Virtual Tour with HFVBTs

Be sure to scope out upcoming tours I will be hosting with:
I will be hosting an Author Interview with Kate Foryth on this blog tour as well. 

Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours - HFVBT

 on my Bookish Events page!
This blog tour is also highlighting the:

Historical Novel Society

A society that I hope to one day join myself as I love their content & focus on Historical Fiction. I appreciate being able to use their badge in my blog’s sidebar to promote awareness of their efforts to spotlight emerging talent inside the genre & for providing amazing ways to become integrated into the mission of supporting today’s historical authors who write such convicting narratives and stories. For the moment I support from afar but I always love alighting on their site and seeing what is new & forthcoming. They even host live events & get togethers!
I positively *love!* comments in the threads below each of my posts, kindly know that I appreciate each thought you want to share with me and all the posts on my blog are open to new comments & commentary! Short or long, I appreciate the time you spent to leave behind a note of your visit! Return again soon! 
{SOURCES: Cover art of “Bitter Greens”, book synopsis, author photograph of Kate Forsyth, author biography, and the tour host badge were all provided by Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours and used with permission. The book trailer for “Bitter Greens” via Kate Forsyth 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. Blog Tour badge provided by Parajunkee to give book bloggers definition on their blogs. Tweets were able to be embedded by the codes provided by Twitter. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Historical Novel Society badge was used with permission; as book bloggers are encouraged to promote the Society on their blogs.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2014.

The ‘live reading’ tweets I shared as I read & reviewed “Bitter Greens”:

{ favourite & Re-tweet if inspired to share }

Comments on Twitter:

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Posted Thursday, 9 October, 2014 by jorielov in 17th Century, Apiculture, Apothecary, ARC | Galley Copy, Biographical Fiction & Non-Fiction, Blog Tour Host & Reviewer, Catholicism, Charlotte-Rose de la Force, Domestic Violence, Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours, Honeybees, Nun, Religious Orders, Trauma | Abuse & Recovery, Widows & Widowers

_+ #atozchallenge _+ 26 Days | 26 Essays [epic journey] Today is Letter “B”. Hint: Living Histories

Posted Wednesday, 2 April, 2014 by jorielov , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , 2 Comments

Day 1: Letter B of the A to Z ChallengeYesterday was the beginning of my EPIC JOURNEY towards revealing why I am a book blogger & what motivates me as a reader! I am involved in a world-wide globally connected blogosphere challenge where each blogger who signs into the participant linky is quite literally confirming their express desire to blog straight [except on Sundays!] for *26 Days!* whilst writing *26!* most intriguing & thought-producing alphabet essays! Or, to be comically inspiring, randomly cheeky, and otherwise delightfully entertaining! The bloggers who have signed into the challenge are from all walks of blogosphere life: book bloggers united alongside lifestyle gurus; writers of all literary styles nudged up against travelogues; the gambit runs the full course of each and every theme, topic, subject, and genre you could possibly light your heart with joy to broach in a blog! And, the curious bit to the journey is where your posts lead you as much as where other blogger’s posts inspire you! It’s this fantastic community to celebrate the spirit within the blogosphere as much as the spirit of connection amongst the bloggers who might not have crossed paths with each other otherwise. After all, the road map for blogs is as wide and large as the actual world outside the nethersphere of websites, pixels, and memes! Walk with us whilst we discover a bit about ourselves, our blog, & each other!

I am blogger #552 out of 2279!

{Notice the slight increase!?}


Few may realise it could be possible, but it was only a handful of years since I pulled myself  out of this EPIC READERS RUT to where I could lay heart and mind back into the depths of the books I always loved to consume! I was even without a proper library branch to call ‘home’, when in late Spring 2009 a new branch opened in a tucked away hamlet! A hamlet by all definitions of being wholly true to itself after the years had raged away its essence and left behind an artistically creative vibe bent on preservation of historic homes, community united festivals and fairs, as well as one of the best self-guided walking tours I have ever come across as you get to amble through time itself, whilst hinged to the present. It was during those hours of having the ability to resume where I had left off a decade before in my reading adventures, I started to gather books which perked an interest inside me that might not even have been there previously! Imagine only being able to collect books by authors you were nearly certain you’d love and appreciate for most of those years, but for whichever reason you could not soak into the narratives because your mind wasn’t willing to go into the heart of what was held within the text!? Imagine if you will, a floodgate of epic proportions allows you the ability to search, pick up, and gather as many books as you could physically carry out of the library whilst re-discovering where your literary heart wanted to wander!

I was bursting at the seams wanting to share my newly discovered reading life which is why the original ‘Jorie Loves A Story’ was a private journal shared amongst her close friends as a way to encourage bookish discussions and reflections based on the books she was reading OR even books that she felt she would enjoy only to discover had not quite floated her boat in the end! She wrote lists of books newly published whilst she had discovered them at local bookstores (big box as at that point in time the local Indies were washed away) and mused about how many ILLs (inter-library loans) and holds (regular in-library materials) one girl could possibly handle within thirty days!? It was this blissful joy of knowing I was going to walk back into my imagination, all the while uncertain about what I might discover about myself and about the characters I was going to meet. In those early dawning months, I was curiously attracted to titles such as “Girl in a Blue Dress” by Gaynor Arnold. I remember going on hold for this lovely book a few times before I could settle the hours to sit for a spell and actually read it! This is the very novel which introduced the idea of B I O G R A P H I C A L F I C T I O N into my heart! I say this because truly, when you sit down to read a fictional accountment of a living person who actually walked the earth, you are properly engaged heart, mind, and soul with their affairs! Their ability to walk outside the pages and land within your living reality as though they were simply popping out for a bit of takeaway nourishment is what makes this particular branch of literature as riveting as it is!

B I O G R A P H I C A L  F I C T I O N
is a nexus of immersion into the inner heart of a living person’s life.
– Jorie, of Jorie Loves A Story


Becoming Josephine by Heather Webb

When I first decided to undertake being a Hostess for blog tours, I wanted to use the opportunities I was being granted to flex my wings and undertake reading books with topics & subjects I may not have had the honour of reading previously. One new fascination of mine is of Revolutionary France, of which I delved into whilst reading “The Golden Hour” by Maiya Williams. A Young Adult book I discovered in the catalogue for my local library, which quite literally changed my perception of the genre! There is a lot of dark undertones happening right now in Young Adult literature and although, they have merit to those who appreciate them, I seek out a different kind of ‘YA’ to read. I entered back into the realms of Children’s Literature with the intent of picking up where I had left off in my own childhood, as I am an Auntie to nieces & nephews as much as I am a Mum-In-Waiting. (see blog lower sidebar: look for Brave Love badge) Uniquely enough, I discovered another quirky French YA book entitled “The Sixty-Eight Rooms” by Marianne Malone! From there my intrepid curious heart watched a classic motion picture on Turner Classic Movies (TCM is quite literally one of two favourite channels of mine! My Twitter feeds elude to the second!) which haunted me a bit as it was approaching Marie Antoinette’s life just prior and just leading after her family lost their lives at the guillotine. I knew there was a good chance hosting for France Book Tours & Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours I might start to intersect books which dealt with the French Revolution! And, happily they started to alight into view when Becoming Josephine entered my life!

I had this to share ahead of sharing my reading impressions of the author & story:

I simply adore historical fiction, including historical biographical fiction, which I think this falls under, as it’s about Bonaparte and his wife! I like the backdrop of the story, and how strong Rose had to become in order to overtake her plight! You see, I have a bit of a long-standing admiration for the French Revolution, even though by many estimates I have only just begun my sojourn into this fascinating section of literature! My attention is thus esteemed to continue to seek out stories set before, during, and after the French Revolution! What can I say? Once you become attached to the living characters of whom most of the books are based upon, in as much as the characters created to walk amongst their living counterparts, you find that one book or five is not quite enough to fully encompass the history of what is left behind to be known!

Stemming from this short history of mine with French Literature, there was a cursory exploration of Bonaparte whilst I was eighteen! Having ducked out of a heavy rainstorm and into the warmth glow of a bookshoppe I had accidentally discovered along a main street – I took the balm of books against nature’s thunderstorm! As I wandered around, I remember finding a rather curious little book, tattered yet readable, (as the bookshoppe sold new and used copies!) about the life of Napoléon Bonaparte! Intrigued I purchased the book and stored it inside a rain-proof bookslip! Ever since that aplomb discovery I have whet my appetite for more! I would be curious to learn how you alighted to read about the French?

– quoted from my review of “Becoming Josephine” by Heather Webb

B I O G R A P H I C A L  F I C T I O N for me allows for a more inter-personal connection to the person stepping forward out of history’s door. I have attempted to read full-on biographies, but more than naught, I fail in making an emotional connection much less an interested one as some of them can languish rather than enliven. When I turn to B I O G R A P H I C A L  F I C T I O N I feel as though the writer has planted me directly into the living person’s shoes and innermost thoughts. I get to breathe in their essence and live a bit in the world in which they knew whilst they were alive. Each of us arrives at a connecting point inside books at different junctions and fixtures, this perhaps is mine. The most alarming part of reading about Josephine as she grew to become Bonaparte’s wife is this reflection on behalf of France:

The backdrop of Becoming Josephine is quintessentially Revolutionary France, where the French hinged between the start of the revolt and the ensuing Reign of Terror. A shuddering of emotions always rings through me whilst thinking on the harder hitting realities of the age which the French had to endure. Webb has a way of acknowledging the back-story of history behind the coattails of the character’s lives in such a way, as to gently guide the reader forward and through, rather than shocking us to our core. The revolution ekes out in small fashion, where rumours of revolt start to erupt in the salons of the day, and where the commoners start to realise they need to launch into a retreat from Royal rule. Part of me understands this and part of me grieves for the loss of the Royal family, due to how brutal the Revolution turns and ends.

And, yet at the heart of the center core of the Revolution you have Josephine and Napoleon, two people I never thought I’d see come together, now that I know the origins of Josephine’s past. The tapestry of fashion is lit and gilded behind the tumult which has been brewing to explode. Interspersed with the flamboyance of cloth and jewels, you gather the sense of urgency in the fever of desperation.

– quoted from my review of “Becoming Josephine” by Heather Webb

Illuminations by Mary SharrattIlluminations: a novel of Hildegard von Bingen by Mary Sharratt was a novel I came to acquaint myself with through Shelf Awareness for Readers (bi-weekly Literary newsletter). As I researched more about the author, I realised I was stumbling across an intuitive writer who dared to shed a light on unknown fixtures of historical merit. As much as I knew she was a writer who broke the barriers and wrote the stories which evoked a passion within her to tell. I am naturally drawn to writers who forge their own literary paths unto where their stories need to find a reader who appreciates the alternative nature of their writing voice. I like seeing writers taking risks for their stories as much as listening to the characters who step forward in their mind’s eye. At times, those characters are ethereal apparitions of a living soul whose own history would be better served in a living narrative than a testament of facts and notations of life milestones.

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!?

– quoted from my review of Illuminations: a novel of Hildegard von Bingen by Mary Sharratt

To extend out of our known reality and intersect on the path of another who lived more than a handful of centuries ago, is the fruitious blessing of reading. We get to pull ourselves in and out of our comfort zones. We get to take a risk ourselves, with our heart and with our mind’s ability to process the imagery and historical truism that we find knitted into B I O G R A P H I C A L  F I C T I O N. We honour the past and the lives in which were lived each time we juxtaposition ourselves into the fractured space where the temporal gravity of time yields a veil in which we can step backwards and forwards; endeavouring greater empathy and giving us a humbling account of humanity.

The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte by Ruth Hull ChatlienThere are moments where I truly feel we are given select books to read at a certain fixed point in which we are meant to read them. For instance, if I hadn’t previously read Becoming Josephine I would not have realised the greater scope of circumstances which befell Betsy Patterson inside The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte by Ruth Hull Chatlien! The full realisation of the breadth of how their lives were cross-sected hit me will full force whilst I was in the early chapters of The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte. The fabric of space we set out to explore in literature become little beckoning notes to the universe. Notes in which flutter into the cosmos and are answered in the curious ability of having books placed into our hands which carry-on the research and conversation which was already broached.

I could only imagine what was rollicking through Betsy’s mind and heart whilst she was being tested against will to re-acquire her beloved’s presence. I am thankful to have this particular biographical fiction cross my path, because it has inspired me to seek out more historical novels set around the Bonaparte’s. For every imagined truth we all perceive about those who lived in the historical past, there is oft-times a hidden story surrounding the very people who might have repelled our interest. I oft wondered about the lives interconnected to Napoleon, the unsung voices of his reign, and through Becoming Josephine and The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte I am embarking towards that end; of unveiling the incredible women who not only backed their men but forged through all the doubts of their eras to secure their futures. And, for this I thank the authors who are giving their readers quite a heap to ruminate on!

– quoted from my review of The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte by Ruth Hull Chatlien

Nor did I ever find myself inquisitively compassionate on behalf of the Bonaparte’s. Napoleon Bonaparte is simultaneous with nearly ever other dictatorial ruler who attempted to sequester and compress his rule over others who had natural bourne freedoms and rights. There are members of his family who were outside the depth of knowledge of what his true convictions and actions were to be undertook, and in their histories we find compassion. The mere fact that even his family was left privy to being pawned in and out of his schemes is a grief they never could shake free. There are other aspects of the French Revolution which goes against most of what is widely known about the era and in some ways, not all of it is rosy from the perspectives of the commoners either. And, this is were being a book blogger is a true gift. I am able to journall out my thoughts and ruminations as I read. Sharing them with an audience I hope is willing to take the journey with me and perhaps even start a conversation based upon what I have expressed. Rooting in on the underlining issues and coming to a connection stitched solely through what was read, internalised, and processed. Conversations are a unique benefit because they help pool our ponderments and gives us the will to examine differentiating revelations. It is my hope to garnish these kinds of conversations on each post where a reader drops by and adds his/her thoughts into the comment threads.

Sebastian's Way: The Pathfinder by George Steger

There are moments too, which arise for a book blogger where one falters the confidence to believe she’s picked a book that might be a bit past her ability to handle. Although I instantly requested Sebastian’s Way: The Pathfinder by George Steger my ruminative thoughts after my review state my full emotional state prior to picking up the book:

I dare thought it might not be plausible to settle into a thick slice of historical suspense such as a story of Charlemagne, until I was given the chance to read Sebastian’s Way: The Pathfinder! A book which lives up to the virtues of historical fiction by etching into our mind’s eye the very inclinations and notions of the age in which Steger’s central figure lived and breathed. It was an age of boldness and an age of religious upheaval. The battle to control the power of the land and the power of the people was not forged through mediation. It was a time which bespoke more of war wounds and proven allegiances based on leadership in the field. To approach the narrative with a slight hesitation of what the context would reveal to me, gave me a bit of an edge once I was ensconced! My nerves melted with each word and paragraph I hungrily drank in to see where the author was taking me next. His ability to light the story from within the heart of the narrative itself is a gift.

– quoted from my review of Sebastian’s Way: The Pathfinder by George Steger

Charlemagne is a near-ghost entity whose entered the nethersphere of my literary walk for as many years as I first drew an inclinating nod towards being a history buff! The corridors of history are as closely-knit together as the world of art, in which, you don’t have traverse very far before hearing echoes of Charlemagne! Yet. The curious bit to those echoes is that oft-times they are not completely dimensional of who the man behind the ‘infamous name’ was or what he represented of himself in life. If I hadn’t clued into an episode of “Who Do You Think You Are?” I might still be a bit in the dark about the fullness of his transformative soul and his heart for leading his mind towards redemptive restitution. Steger pulls you into the folds of where the myth of Charlemagne leads into the man Charlemagne became.

Citadel by Kate MosseA reader’s heart bleeds as readily as the character’s whose life is afflicted and fraught with conflictual adversity. Mosse is an author I first learnt of through my Mum’s suggestion to read Labyrinth. As this book came up for review, I instantly tipped my hat to read Citadel as it felt as my moment to read Kate Mosse had arrived. My goal was simple enough: read the first two books in the series before proceeding into Citadel; except time and life had other plans! As a book blogger you have to adapt and stay flexible to everything that can arrive out of the clear blue, whilst still being able to bring the stories your reviewing into the limelight of your reading hours.

History has a unique way of imparting important acknowledgements out of the past, by finding the ways in which the words can travel through vessels of time. Words handed and passed down through generations, from family to stranger seeking a confidence of protection is one of the most reliable methods of keeping knowledge secret from eyes who would take the same words and twist them into harmful deeds. It’s how we as a society react and root out resilience in the face of our foremost dire fears and shake away the rootings of evil. Resistance from oppression and the strife of a regime bent against the welfare of the people is true courage lit aflame.

Sandrine is an intuitive woman who was set apart from others; she could see past the veils of our reality and into the next life just beyond our focus. She was tuned into mystical truths which gave her a bolster of strength in the nanoseconds where her own inner resolve faltered. Her life was writ to be in service of others, and in of giving all of her mind, body, and soul to fighting for the sanctity of life, liberty, and freedom. Citadel is epic in scale, emotionally convicting, and powerfully written to leave you quite still at its conclusion retrospectively museful, and enlightened. Your heart shatters and aches in an indescribable way when you read the four sentences on page 673. With eyes too blurry and a heart too gutted to carry-on into the Epilogue.

– quoted from my review of Citadel by Kate Mosse

To Live Forever by Andra Wakins

The best surprise I have had in a long time as a book blogger is having a blog tour alight in my Inbox which stirred my avidly curious imagination into drinking the proportional elements of To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis by Andra Wakins! The very first time I saw the book cover art and hungrily read the book synopsis, I knew I had found lightning in the bottle, because the manner in which the story was presenting itself, it was a one-off chance to get to know an emerging new writer on the peripatetic jolt beginning of her literary career! A long-term appreciator of Western fiction and the expeditions of early American frontier settlers, Lewis & Clark are a fixture of my memories of frontier living. To take a formidable presence such as Meriwether Lewis and re-invent the way in which we soak into B I O G R A P H I C A L  F I C T I O N as his story is only half of the scope of the story is literary brilliance!

The story is interwoven as a refractive mirror of the Natchez Trace itself. The harder you believe any blight of adversity is in your life to conquer and overcome, the more your spirit will start to believe your too fragile to try anything. The Trace is a test of wills as much as it’s a test of inner fortitude to re-strengthen our shield against unwanted storms and periods of stress which arise out of nowhere. Life can ebb and flow, bobbing us along until we’re ready to see what our eyes blinded us towards revealing. All of our passageways lead us further towards where our feet are meant to land, but what if we hold ourselves back from the greatest revelations of all? Simply because we’re not willing to alight where we’re lead to go? The Trace is unique in that it withholds its past like a tightly woven tapestry. Each piece of its innate soul is stitched inside the weathered path where feet and souls mingled into the mist. There lessons linger and their spirits shudder to grieve.

There is an ever-knowing pool of truth and hope awaiting us around each bend and turn. The people we feel we are ‘randomly’ encountering are the kind of teachers and advisers we might never expect would be important to our growth. Listen with compassion. Be kind to strangers who might one day become a cherished friend. Grow through friendship and rise each day realising the beauty of the hour. Our lives are leading us through the light and back inside it.

– quoted from my review of To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis by Andra Wakins

The Tenor by Peter Danish

On the foot-heels of Meriwether Lewis, I am embarking on an intimate portrait of a previously unknown opera singer Maria Callas, as I entered into the fictional account of how a soldier she knew in real life became the living angel who saved her. I was curious about this book due to my appreciation of opera (classical opera, rock opera, & modern opera band) and for finding a hidden story out of a portion of World War II I was not expecting to unearth! These are the stories I like to discovery the most: fixtures within history who had the most to lose and the most to gain, whose lives were lived nearly unknown to each generation who came after they had lived. Men and women whose spirits are rejoicing a bit each time a writer clues in on their legacy and gives a light upon their days with a new mirth of compassion and understanding. The past deserves compassion due to how difficult most of the harder chapters were to survive as they were lived through.

As a precursor to my review which goes live on Friday, 4th of April, I want to share with you a piece of Mr. Danish’s interview:

What touched you most about the story whilst giving you the breadth of creating “The Tenor”?

Danish responds: I originally learned the story of the soldier from Arianna Stassinopoulos (now more famously known as Arianna Huffington, of Huffington Post fame) and her biography of Maria Callas. But when I read a half-dozen other accounts of her life, none of them mentioned him! So I sought out an old family friend who was a personal friend of Callas (actually a friend of my ex-in-laws – yes, I cared enough to reach out to my ex-in-laws!) He informed me that the story was indeed true, and not only had the soldier existed, but Maria had a school-girl crush on him! And that the two of them often sang together! The fact that they sang together struck me deeply. I just knew he had to be a fellow opera singer, because only another opera singer would have recognized the subtleties, the nuances that separate the good from the great and the great from the once-in-a-lifetime voices.

– quoted from my Interview with Peter Danish, author of “The Tenor”

The one B I O G R A P H I C A L  F I C T I O N novel which slipped through my fingers this year is Nancy Horan’s “Under a Wide & Starry Sky” of which I requested twiceover and was unfortunately one of too many who had itched to read the story! I even had the book arrive on hold at my local library only to boomrang back as its timing in my life was quite ill-conceived! I am hopeful that before Summer starts her wrath of a reign, I can dig into the biographical sketch of Robert Louis Stevenson and get to know one writer out of history I was never quite keen on reading, but felt there was more to him than perhaps I could have foreseen!

However, there is another B I O G R A P H I C A L  F I C T I O N account of a life I have not fully explored on my blog but of which captured my heart full the first six months of 2013! Z: a novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler had the ability to beseech Zelda’s voice out of the grave, presenting herself as strong as she were in life. Fowler’s writer’s road towards publication of Z is quite the testament of how one writer is destined to pen the life of a living person, giving themselves a history of an attachment with them, and enabling the readers who find their stories an ability to understand them. I read Fowler’s novel through Book Browse and participated in an exchange of forum based conversations, whereupon I felt most of the other readers entered into the book and the discussions bias against Zelda Fitzgerald. I went in with an open eye for giving Zelda the freedom to be herself and to explain herself for her actions and lifestyle if she felt it necessary. What is rather evident as you read Z is that Zelda was living under thumb of a controlling and manipulative husband who self-less desire for fame, fortune, and immortal legacy in print overrode her most basic needs. The most gutting part of the book for me is the ending chapters, where we start to see Zelda brave the will to remove herself from the toxic environment and start to stake her own claim on her life. I realise I tweeted I would re-read this volume of her life this year, in 2014, but I still feel as though I need a bit of distance before I re-open her story. Sometimes, the books we read are not meant to be examined in length but absorbed privately and cherished forevermore. Z: a novel of Zelda Fitzgerald might be one of mine. The capstone of spending time with her was seeing the modern remake of “The Great Gatsby” in which the Fitzgeralds were illuminated on camera and the life in which they lived were on full display. It was so clearly evident of a fictional account of how dangerous they lived and how daring they believed they were invisible that I was emotional off-kilter for my birthday! As it was the film I elected to celebrate seeing!

And, there lies the beauty of uncovering B I O G R A P H I C A L  F I C T I O N as it forces us to emphatically connected the threads in which all of us are bonded.


A bit of an extra surprise for those A to Z Challengers

who patiently awaited my “Letter B”:

The Tenor by Peter Danish Book Trailer by Peter Danish


Thank you for joining me on DAY 2 | A to Z Challenge!

I am a girl named Jorie who loves a story!
I am a bookish library girl on a quest for literary enlightenment!
I am predominately self-taught and library educated!
I am Mademoiselle Jorie!
Thank you for joining me on this journey!

This marks my second post for the:

A to Z Challenge

And, might I add as an observation on Day 2? 

Why do you think we illicit such a curious attachment to understanding a person through biographical fiction OR within the tomes of biographies & autobiographies!? Where does your personal preference lie when wanting to drink in the history of a person who lived!?

{SOURCES: A to Z Challenge Participant & Letter B Badge provided by the A to Z Challenge site for bloggers to use on their individual posts & blogs to help promote the challenge to others. Book covers provided by France Book Tours & Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for promotion and review on Jorie Loves A Story; used with permission. The book trailer by Peter Danish 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. }

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2014.

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Posted Wednesday, 2 April, 2014 by jorielov in A to Z Challenge, Biographical Fiction & Non-Fiction, Blogosphere Events & Happenings, Book Browse, Bookish Discussions, Charlemagne, Debut Novel, Elizabeth "Betsy" Patterson Bonaparte, France Book Tours, Historical Fiction, Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours, Josephine Bonaparte, Maria Callas, Meriwether Lewis

*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.

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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