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on 28 April 2009
This is the first autobiography in English. It was written in 1436, lost for centuries, rediscovered 1934, and is here translated for the first time from Middle English into fully comprehensible modern language. In it Margery Kempe describes her `madness, financial ruin, religious ecstasies, marital problems and dangerous treks to distant shrines' over a period of 40 years. Strong stuff.
Margery Kempe was married, and had 14 children. She lived in Norfolk in the 14th century. After becoming a visionary and mystic she went on pilgrimages, preached, and was tried. Her `special talent', for which she was both revered and castigated, was the way in which she responded to her visions -- visions such as these:

In chapter 36, God deifies and marries Margery, inviting her to kiss him, embrace him and take him to bed' - a graphically described scene. In chapter 81, she has a vision of the crucifixion and subsequent events: `A little later, I thought I saw our Lady walking towards her home ... Once our Lady was home and resting on her bed it occurred to me to make her a nice hot drink, but when I took it to her she told me to throw it away'.
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on 2 April 2013
Margery Kempe lived in Norfoldk and many places she mentions in her book bring back fond memories. For instance, the church of St Margaret, Kings Lynne, Norwich itself etc. I did not know about her but I knew about Julian of Norwich, it is strange but I always thought of Norfolk as the most religious place in England and I lived there for a number of years. Margery Kempe was an unusual woman for the age in which she lived. She travelled to the Holy Land, Compostela and round about England. She was very independent and was allowed to do what she pleased by her husband, even refusing him his conjugal rights. In short, when you read the book, all your conceptions about medieval women are turned upside down. And this is only the beginning. She has to be admired for her courage which came because of her strong faith. As everyone is aware, her behaviour was, to most clerics, outlandish at best, and deserving of the pyre for claiming to be in direct touch with heaven. Joan of Arc didn't get away so easily, wasn't the same Bedford around at the time? I loved her simple prayers especially when she asks Jesus to forgive her for her failings just as he forgave Peter and Mary Magdalen. Yes, I could go on but there is a lot to read between the lines and this makes the book a fascinating read all round. One point I wish to make - the front cover is not what is advertised, it's the Annunciation but I visited the Burrell Museum so it's acceptable too.
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on 12 June 2013
For all those who know and have read the works of Julian of Norwich, this is a lesser known book by one of her contemporaries. Recommended for those who enjoy 14th C literature - Chaucer for example: this is a superb translation, which makes it very easy and enjoyable to read.
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on 8 December 2000
This is a modern rendering of the earliest surviving autobiographical writing in English. Kempe lived in Lynn, Norfolk, in the late fourteenth-century. She was the daughter of a five-times mayor, a wife, mother of fourteen children and a self-confessed failed business woman. Although famed for the exuberance of her religious experiences, the book also reveals incidental details about Kempe's marriage, work and daily life.
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on 1 March 2015
Seriously, I cannot review this book. It is the earliest know work of literature by a woman. That should be enough reason to acquire it to read. Margery was a deeply religious woman, to the point of fanaticism, which takes her down some interesting paths in life. Absolute classic.
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on 3 April 2016
Absolutely fascinating as a historical document. I have the original as well and both are useful in different ways. The language of the original feels better for the subject - this version is often actually quite funny. It's infuriatingly repetitive at times.
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on 25 May 2013
I was researching some locla "colour" for a monk character in a museum. This book provided interesting information and background and was an interesting read anyway
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on 21 March 2014
I read this 6 months ago and I still can't get over the image of Margery's suffering. What an incredible women.
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on 22 May 2014
A great source for the history of the period as well as giving an insight into the spirituality of the time.
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on 3 March 2016
very interesting read - quite difficult as in 'olde' English - but that adds to the ambience
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