Illuminations: A Novel of Hildegard Von Bingen Paperback – 15 Oct 2013
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From the Back Cover
"[A] lovely, deeply felt depiction of a humble woman who survives darkness to give her heart to the world." Minneapolis Star Tribune
"Sharratt brings one of the most famous and enigmatic women of the Middle Ages to vibrant life in this tour de force, which will captivate the reader from the very first page." Sharon Kay Penman
One could not anticipate this majesty and drama . . . Illuminations is riveting, following von Bingen through . . . to emerge as one of the significant voices of the 12th century . . . Unforgettable." January Magazine
One of the most extraordinary women of the Middle Ages, Hildegard von Bingen Benedictine abbess, healer, composer, saint experienced mystic visions from a very young age. Offered by her noble family to the Church at the age of eight, she lived for years in forced silence. But through the study of books and herbs, through music and the kinship of her sisters, Hildegard found her way from a life of submission to a calling that celebrated the divine glories all around us. In this brilliantly researched andinsightful novel, Mary Sharratt offers a deeply moving portrait of a woman willing to risk everything for what she believed, a triumphant exploration of the life she might well have lived.
Gripping . . . Like Ann Patchett s Bel Canto, [Illuminations] is primarily about relationships forged under pressure." Publishers Weekly
Masterful." Saint Paul Pioneer Press
The author of four critically acclaimed novels, MARY SHARRATT is an American who lived for twelve years in Germany, which, along with her interest in sacred music and herbal medicine, inspired her to write Illuminations.
Author photograph (c) Reg Whitman
About the Author
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 coeditor of the subversive fiction anthology Bitch Lit, a celebration of female antiheroes, strong women who break all the rules.
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Top Customer Reviews
Unlike other nuns, anchorites were walled within tiny cells, never to view sunlight or venture into the world--a living death so the anchorites may be reborn in Christ. A meal a day, slid to them through a revolving hatch, offers the barest sustenance to their bodies. Despite this, Hildegard finds ways to flourish. A novice monk brings her books and plants, allowing her to experience the world forbidden to her; his advice and friendship protect her from Jutta's violent mood swings. As the years pass, the girl learns of Jutta's tragic past and grows in compassion. Hildegard also learns to read, write, and even compose music. Her visions of the divine continue, offering her comfort in her grave-like enclosure.
Thirty years later, when Hildegard is finally freed from her walled-up cell after Jutta breathes her last, her life truly begins as a composer of sacred music, an expert in the holistic use of plants, and author of nine books. Hildegard's magnum opus Scrivas--"Know the Way"--shares her religious visions, which present a uniquely feminine experience of the face of God.Read more ›
In this novel, Mary Sharratt has the eight year old Hildegard (born in Bermersheim vor der Höhe, County Palatine of the Rhine, Holy Roman Empire) given to a ‘holy’ anchorite named Jutta. Hildegard is then walled up with her companion at Disibodenberg in the Palatinate Forest in what is now Germany. An anchorite, as I discovered, was usually a woman (an anchoress) who chose to live alone in a small house with a screened window through which she conversed with the outside world. Life as an anchoress was not uncommon during the Middle Ages, but Jutta (who was often regarded as a living saint) was a fanatic.
This novel, told as a first-person account by Hildegard in old age, depicts their life together, the consequences of Jutta’s extremism on both herself and on Hildegard. While depicting the horrors of Hildegard’s life with Jutta for three decades, the novel also encompasses Hildegard’s life once Jutta is dead: where she goes public with the visions she has experienced and eventually founds and leads her own covent where she becomes a beloved abbess. Her life was not without controversy.
‘I am not afraid’, I whispered, ‘ What can they do to one old nun?’
I found this novel interesting for its depiction of Hildegard’s life as an anchorite. Ms Sharratt imagines a Hildegard consistent with the times in which she lived, possessed of a deep religious experience. While my focus remains on her music, I can only marvel at the spirit which, having endured so much, was inspired to write such soaring music. An amazing person.
`Illuminations' is the prefect title for this novel; illumination fills the story. The great illuminated texts that Hildegard learns from, the great visions of light that fill her, her illumination of the corruption in the church; light fills Hildegard's life even at its darkest points. This is a triumphant story told in lyrical prose that brings the era and monastery life into brilliant, colorful focus. But it's not a one sided glorification of Hildegard; she's a living, breathing woman with the faults all humans share. It's not a religious book at all; it's a story of people and spirit. Whether you're Catholic or not, or even Christian or not, Hildegard von Bingen was a fascinating woman. Sharratt's writing held me suspended in Hildegard's life throughout the novel, and it left me wishing the book was twice as long.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A very fascinating story of an remarkable woman. Mary Sharratt's writing is magical and enticing! I highly recommend this book.Published 8 months ago by linda
I have just finished 'Illuminations' by Mary Sharrat, about Hildegard von Bingen. A reader might be surprised that there could be so much plot in a book which is essentially about... Read morePublished 10 months ago by Deborah Swift
Beautiful book. Thoughtful and measured. A lot to think about and I have gone on to listen to Hildegard's music and her own writings. Read morePublished 22 months ago by Karen H
I need to own up first of all to being a friend of Mary's as well as a fan of her fiction. But I wouldn't review her work unless I had enjoyed it myself and wanted to recommend it... Read morePublished on 2 Nov. 2012 by C. Staincliffe