Audie Award Finalist, Inspirational/Faith-Based Fiction, 2014
Skillfully interweaving historical fact with psychological insight and vivid imagination, Sharratt's redemptive novel, Illuminations, brings to life one of the most 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 entombed in a small room where she was expected to live out her days in silent submission as the handmaiden of a renowned but disturbed young nun, Jutta von Sponheim.
Instead, Hildegard rejected Jutta's masochistic piety and found comfort and grace in studying books, growing herbs, and rejoicing in her own secret visions of the divine. When Jutta died some thirty years later, Hildegard broke out of her prison with the heavenly calling to speak and write about her visions and to liberate her sisters and herself from the soul-destroying anchorage.
Riveting and utterly unforgettable, Illuminations is a deeply moving portrayal of a woman willing to risk everything for what she believed.
©2012 Mary Sharratt (P)2012 Tantor
"[A] gripping story." (Publishers Weekly)
The author brings to light the life of a fascinating and amazing historical character. Worth listening to.
After the strength of the story, itself, it was Tavia Gilbert's surprising ability to sing Hildegard's music that made this memorable as an audiobook.
The lovely nature of good historical fiction, of which this is an example, is the ability to humanize the people who made history.
Narrative makes the world go round.
I give this an extra star for its subject. The author manages to present some aspects of 12th century worldview but frequently slips into contemporary YA banter. What seems most anachronistic is Hildegard’s self-awareness.
Except for pivotal events, the details of Hildegard’s life necessarily need to come from imagination; however, the author seems to choose the more traumatic aspects that resonate today on which to hang the tale. She also seems to have chosen to make some of the supporting characters more villainous than history suggests. Just as the wimples of medieval nuns could not be as neat and snowy white as the one pictured on the "cover", so this novel is a modern projection, and a selective one.
The author does capture some of Hildegard’s spirit, and religion serving patriarchy is still worth writing about, especially so soon after Hildegard’s elevation to Doctor of the RC Church while its modern day excommunication of supporters of women continues.
I suppose if you regularly read historical fiction with a medieval setting, this could be a gem – Writing this period must be challenging. This novel is not Umberto Eco or even Ellis Peters, however. I can consume mediocre stuff set in other centuries, but maybe because I’m not a fan of this period in fiction, the story just made me wince frequently and select fast narration.
Transported back in time to a place where women were subordinate to men and without a voice. St. Hildegard became that voice, a powerful yet humble vessel and many miracles ensued! The tragedies that befell her, and others moved me to tears, but with the great triumphs, great joy!
Yes, be prepared for being transported back in time, feeling as a sister with her, in spirit. What a life, so much courage, what a great woman, truly a Saint!
In the audio book, Tavia Gilbert does and excellent job with her voice of many colours and range. Capturing the beauty of song, wide array of emotions, whether melancholy, passionate, fervourous, to painting landscapes so eloquently. I would have never guessed that she was the singular voice for all of the characters!
Yes. Already loaned my Kindle to a friend going on a cruise, so she could listen to it.
The inhumanity of the Catholic Church and the attitudes of all people in that era.
When Hildegard finally was set free.
Highly recommend to anyone who likes historical stories.
Illuminations is one of the books I would highly recommend to those who love historical novels and stories that bring important historical figures like Hildegard von Bingen to life.
Hildegard von Bingen is shown in a very human light rather than a super saint. Furthermore, We observer her development as a child with a spiritual gift to a strong moral woman whose faith is unshakable. Her character was believable and inspiring.
Tavia Gilbert does an excellent performance in portraying Hildegard as a young girl and then changing her voice to match the aged Hildegard. In addition, Gilbert flawlessly changed and modified voices to match other characters in the audio book.
I looked forward to listening to this book every time I had to drive anywhere or when I could take time to listen to it. I was entranced by the storytelling.
I would love to listen/read more stories by this author!
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