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Publisher's Summary

For a thousand years her existence has been denied. She is the legend that will not die - Pope Joan, the ninth-century woman who disguised herself as a man and rose to become the only female ever to sit on the throne of St. Peter.

Now in this riveting novel, Donna Woolfolk Cross paints a sweeping portrait of an unforgettable heroine who struggles against restrictions her soul cannot accept.

Brilliant and talented, young Joan rebels against medieval social strictures forbidding women to learn. When her brother is brutally killed during a Viking attack, Joan takes up his cloak - and his identity - and enters the monastery of Fulda. As Brother John Anglicus, Joan distinguishes herself as a great scholar and healer. Eventually, she is drawn to Rome, where she becomes enmeshed in a dangerous web of love, passion, and politics.

Triumphing over appalling odds, she finally attains the highest office in Christendom - wielding a power greater than any woman before or since. But such power always comes at a price....

©1996 , 2009 Donna Woolfolk Cross (P)2009 Recorded Books, LLC

Critic Reviews

"Whether or not one believes in Joan as Pope, this is a compelling story, filled with all kinds of lore: the brutishness of the Dark Ages, Vatican intrigue, politics and favoritism and most of all, the place of women in the Church and in the world." (Amazon.com review)
"In this colorful, richly imagined novel, Cross ably inspires a suspension of disbelief, pulling off the improbable feat of writing a romance starring a pregnant pope." ( Publishers Weekly)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

exceptional in historical content and storyline<br />

this author was exceptional in historical content accuracy and storyline. It was clear to see that much investigation and historical background had been researched in order to complete this entertaining and well-written book.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Sandy
  • San Francisco, CA United States
  • 11-11-17

Fabulous and interesting story

Could she have been pope. Most certainly! This is very thought provoking. The Catholic Church offers much good....except in the treatment of women at the top: it is time to let reason rule tradition. I️ can see this book as great mini series....Netflix take note. This would be a winner! By the way, I️ loved the reader’s voice. I️ could sit for hours letter her tell me stories.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

WOW!!!

This book is wonderfully written. The performance was just so great. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • MW
  • POWELL, OH, US
  • 07-10-18

Medtechgma1

I really enjoyed this historical fiction based on a whole lot of fact. The dark ages was such an interesting time to live. It was so difficult for women and all people of all ages, but particularly women. I found it enlightening as to the difficulties experienced In the Catholic Church. It best to keep Church and state separate.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Lady Pope

Pope Joan is a very good book. I couldn't stop listening to it, and after I finished- I thought more about the carichtors. After a very shocking trauma, Joan chose to live in 2 worlds: One in which she is almost a man, a priest who does many almost unbelievable things. In the other, she is a woman who does the most womanly things. The only link between her 2 worlds is her love to Jerald. If you are in the search for a provoking and enjoyable listening, I recommend you to buy this book.

11 of 16 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars

Silly Woman!

Donna Cross leaves no cliche uncoined in this overlong and faintly ridiculous attempt at the legend of a medieval female pope. There are numerous anachronisms, and the turgid prose, predictable plot make it very difficult for Barbara Rosenblat to give it a convincing reading. After her exceptional reading of the Amelia Peabody novels, I had hoped for much more from her. The yawn factor was very high for me with this book. I'm being generous with 3 stars.

16 of 25 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Cariola
  • Chambersburg, PA USA
  • 07-19-11

Disappointing

I had heard a lot of good buzz about this novel and was looking forward to it. In the end, while it kept my attention, it was just OK. Cross relied too heavily on clich??s, and the book would have been better without shoving in the mushy romance. So is the moral of the story that women should be treated as individuals and judged according to their abilities--or is it that women, in the end, really are creatures ruled by their passions and need a man to control them?

5 of 8 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Some parts were great, others not so much

The historical truth of a woman pope in the 9th century is far from universally accepted, even though the author may truly believe the events she describes based on her research. But in any case that is not the real point of the story. The main theme of the story is the struggle of women down through the ages to be allowed the same chance at a respected position in society which men have enjoyed since time immemorial. The fact that the Roman Catholic Corporation, 1200 years on, still has an all male hierarchy, and prevents its clerics from marrying is to say the least incredible. I am left puzzling over why women still participate in the church at all since, without the free work women do in the church and in raising their children in the church, it would collapse. For Joan, the answer is more understandable, since the church was one of the few ways someone outside of the aristocracy could rise in the world or become educated. Still, the total exclusion of women in this institution meant that to be educated one had to pretend to be a man.

The way the author shows the hypocrisy and misogyny in the early Roman Catholic church is the best part of this book. In addition, there is no attempt to hide from the reader the corruption driving most if not all members of the church hierarchy in order to win for themselves more temporal power within the church and therefore within society. The implication is that little has changed in such a tradition bound institution. The description of the daily life of the people of the time is very well done and lots of information is woven smoothly into the story line. However, the imagined romance between Gerald and Joan is really not believable and distracts from the story. The fanciful notion that a handsome, brave, and powerful member of the aristocracy would be smitten by a young woman in his charge because she was very intelligent and also very kind is pretty far fetched and completely unnecessary to the overall story.

The idea that a woman could pass herself off as a man regardless of the date is also somewhat of a stretch. How does one explain away the need to shave one's face? Nevertheless, Joan's motivation is clear. In fact as we see everywhere today, things have only marginally improved. Certainly there has been no table turning in the balance of power between the sexes. What is wonderful about young women today is their demand for the same kind of freedom which men have always enjoyed. What women of the the baby boomer generation thought of as common sense behavior, young women today see as impinging on their freedom to live their lives without harassment or mistreatment by the men they encounter. These are a few of the reflections I had when reading this book. It is definitely worth a credit!

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Love this book

This is a great listen if you're interested in historical fiction. The story was compelling, the characters sympathetic and the narration flawless.
I will be listening to this one again at some point. Fantastic!

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Great book

I love historical fiction. I found this book most interesting. Very well worth the listening.