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Illuminations: A Novel of Hildegard von Bingen | [Mary Sharratt]

Illuminations: A Novel of Hildegard von Bingen

Skillfully interweaving historical fact with psychological insight and vivid imagination, Sharratt's redemptive novel 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.
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Publisher's Summary

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

What the Critics Say

"[A] gripping story." (Publishers Weekly)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.7 (30 )
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4.1 (26 )
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  •  
    connie Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada 12-01-12
    connie Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada 12-01-12 Member Since 2007

    trying to see the world with my ears

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    "Strong woman; weak novel"

    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.

    8 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Frieda Deep South, USA 03-30-13
    Frieda Deep South, USA 03-30-13 Member Since 2012

    Frieda

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    "Couldn't stop listening"
    If you could sum up Illuminations in three words, what would they be?

    The author brings to light the life of a fascinating and amazing historical character. Worth listening to.


    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    M. Leavell Belleville, IL USA 05-18-14
    M. Leavell Belleville, IL USA 05-18-14 Member Since 2013
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    "A must-read for anyone who loves her music"
    What made the experience of listening to Illuminations the most enjoyable?

    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.


    What about Tavia Gilbert’s performance did you like?

    See above.


    Any additional comments?

    The lovely nature of good historical fiction, of which this is an example, is the ability to humanize the people who made history.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jean Clark 06-08-14
    Jean Clark 06-08-14 Listener Since 2010
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    "Very interesting and different"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Yes. Already loaned my Kindle to a friend going on a cruise, so she could listen to it.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Illuminations?

    The inhumanity of the Catholic Church and the attitudes of all people in that era.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    When Hildegard finally was set free.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    Yes


    Any additional comments?

    Highly recommend to anyone who likes historical stories.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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