Julian of Norwich is probably the most famous of English anchoresses - born probably in 1342, she died some time after 1416. Little is known about her personal life, not even when she became an anchoress, but it seems from her writings and from the pace of her life that she must have been a learned and deeply philosophical and religious woman for most, if not all her life. We do not even know what her name was - it is likely she was known as Julian of Norwich after the church of which she was an anchoress.
What we know about her today is largely from words written about her by others (for example, Margery Kempe visited her), and from her writings - the Short text and Long text of her own writings, the Revelations of Divine Love. The Short text was probably written not long after her illness and visions, and the Long text may have been some years later, as it shows a maturity of style and deep consideration of the earlier writings. In these works, she tells how she had long sought to receive as gifts from God the gifts of contrition, compassion and true longing for God, if these were things that God willed for her to receive. When she was thirty, she became seriously ill and was though to be near death. At the point of death, she experienced "remarkably vivid visual and auditory phenomena" with corporeal and spiritual visions and understandings of Christ's teachings.
The book is broken into four main sections:
Part One: Background and biography
1. Julian in her Context
2. Education and Enclsoure
3. The Life of an Anchoress
Part Two: Julian's Spirituality
4. Julian's Prayers
5. Julian's Visions
Part Three: Julian's Theology of Integration
6. `Love was His Meaning': Julian's Theological Method
7. The Trinity: Attributes of Love
8. Creation and Asceticism: Expressions of Love
Part Four: Wounds into Honours
9. Sin and Suffering
10. Spiritual Growth and Healing
I found this book extremely interesting; rather than being dry and difficult to assimilate, it was written in a most accessible way, and the story of Julian's life (as much as we can know) and her beliefs are most interesting. More than that, the book offers an understanding of the times in which Julian lived, and the way in which an anchoress would have lived. All this adds a deeper level to the understanding for the reader of Julian herself. Definitely recommended.