09 June 2016

Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross

Title: Pope Joan

Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B002BH5HO4   

Genre: Historical

Pages: 434     

Status: Finished

Recommended for awisls: Highly recommended

It is still arguable whether there was a female Pope or no. I personally think there wasn’t. Donna Woolfolk Cross thinks otherwise. And she has written a long novel, which although a fiction, contains a lot of historical figures, such as Pope Sergius III, Roman Emperor Lothar I, Pope Leo IV, Pope Benedict III.

Here’s what you can find on Wikipedia about Pope Joan:

Pope Joan was, according to popular legend, a woman who reigned as pope for a few years during the Middle Ages. Her story first appeared in chronicles in the 13th century and subsequently spread throughout Europe. The story was widely believed for centuries, but most modern scholars regard it as fictional.

Most versions of her story describe her as a talented and learned woman who disguised herself as a man, often at the behest of a lover. In the most common accounts, due to her abilities, she rose through the church hierarchy and was eventually elected pope. Her sex was revealed when she gave birth during a procession, and she died shortly after, either through murder or natural causes. The accounts state that later church processions avoided this spot, and that the Vatican removed the female pope from its official lists and crafted a ritual to ensure that future popes were male. In the 16th century, Siena Cathedral featured a bust of Joan among other pontiffs; this was removed after protests in 1600.

I don’t think we will ever know if Pope Joan really existed or no, because even if there are documented proofs, they are probably in Vatican archives and will never be disclosed. Whether Pope Joan is real or a fraud, she’s still a popular subject in fiction, being a character in multiple plays and novels. Donna Woolfolk Cross is a professional and has done a great research. This is how a historical novel should be written, so if you’re planning to write one yourself, pick Pope Joan and read it slowly and attentively. Also, Donna’s writing is very good, which is another big plus. Sometimes Joan’s actions seemed anachronistic to me, considering the events of the book were taking place in 9th century. I understand that women like her who were ahead of their time changed the course of history and made the world a bit better, but still, her thinking was too modern and feministic for the dark ages. However, I still enjoyed the book, mostly because of the great research and professional writing.

My only problem with this novel is that it was too romantic. What can I do, I just hate love and sufferings in books.

Pope Joan Donna Woolfolk Cross historical Rome