An awesome read! Little known sources in history suggest there was once a woman who attained the seat of St Peter and became Pope in the 9th century. Cross builds the hints in these sources into a recreation of the woman who achieve this amazing feat, detailing the life of the young, curious Joan and the circumstances that lead her to forego her female identity and enter a monastery disguised as a man. This fateful decision sets her on a path and career that ends in her election as Pope. Very very well written, by an author with great attention to historical accuracy and detail--the end notes at the back on her 'errata' from known history are superb. The very best in historical fiction---a novel that leaves you believing it is absolutely true.
As the author says, this is a fictionalized account of a much-disputed event in the 800s, definitely the Dark Ages. Joan's life was hard, as was that of most women's. The things we take for granted now were beyond a dream for most women (and men) in those days.
I thought the author wrote well, and I had a hard time putting it down. This is apparently the author's only fiction book, which is too bad; I would gladly read another of hers.
Fascinating book. As an English major, I specialized in the medieval period, and I can say that the author got the details right. Although this is a highly fictionalized account of the history of the female Pope, it is a believable one.
Personally, this is the best book I've read in a while. I really enjoyed the author's writing style and how she mixed history with fiction. Despite what you think about Pope Joan (fictional creation or real person who's history has been covered up), I think you will appreciate this book for its compelling story telling and wonderfully fleshed out characters. Joan feels trapped in her female body and tries to gain acceptance as a girl seeking an education. When that fails and nearly gets her trapped in an unwanted marriage, she assumes her dead brother's identity and continues her education as a man. Joan struggles with her female urges as she is in love with her kind benefactor, a relationship that is initially impossible because he is married and she is living with his family, but is later made more difficult because Joan is living as a man. I couldn't stop talking about this book after reading it (and while reading it), so even though I had originally intended to swap it when finished, I can't bring myself to part with it just yet! If you are looking to read something that is going to make you think, this is the book! :-)
I really enjoyed this book although when I started it, I didn't think I would. The first bit dragged for me, but when Joan got the opportunity to study and follow her dreams, I was pulled into the story.
While I have no opinion either way whether Pope Joan did or did not exist, I did spend a lot of time clicking through my Google search on her. I found it to be an interesting story and if Pope Joan did exist, it made for fantastic reading.