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Pope Joan
Pope Joan
Author: Donna Woolfolk Cross
For a thousand years men have denied her existence--Pope Joan, the woman who disguised herself as a man and rose to rule Christianity for two years. Now this compelling novel animates the legend with a portrait of an unforgettable woman who struggles against restrictions her soul cannot accept. — When her older brother dies in a Viking attack, th...  more »
ISBN-13: 9780345416261
ISBN-10: 0345416260
Publication Date: 1996
Pages: 448
  • Currently 4.1/5 Stars.

4.1 stars, based on 378 ratings
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Book Type: Paperback
Other Versions: Hardcover
Reviews: Member | Amazon | Write a Review

Top Member Book Reviews

reviewed Pope Joan on + 118 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 21
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.
reviewed Pope Joan on + 21 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 12
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.
reviewed Pope Joan on + 71 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 12
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.
reviewed Pope Joan on + 160 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 10
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! :-)
reviewed Pope Joan on
Helpful Score: 8
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.
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reviewed Pope Joan on
Excellent read! Even if Joan's reign as Pope is fictionalized, as other reviewers point out, it's a fascinating look into medieval Europe reminiscent of Follett's Pillars of the Earth. Joan is a strong, likable character living in a time where women's roles were limited to little more than child-bearing as she tries to transcend her traditional role to reach greatness.

Personally, I found the author a little detached from the story, and other readers may not enjoy the slightly lengthy descriptions of life in the Middle Ages as much as I did, but all in all, a highly recommended read for feminists and history-lovers alike.
reviewed Pope Joan on + 130 more book reviews
I was very impressed! Though this work of fiction is based on a legend that has its roots in the deepest, darkest part of the dark ages, the historical questions raised are as significant as those attributed to Dan Brown's 'DaVinci Code'. I know this story has been around a while--It was also made a movie...twice--but I would still recommend it to those who, as I was, are unaware of this historical singularity.
reviewed Pope Joan on + 120 more book reviews
A fascinating exploration of the legend of Pope Joan. It certainly gives a gal pause when considering is there a war on women today????? Hardly, after reading the prejudices and the persecutions that Joan endured growing into womanhood it's little wonder that she assumes her dead brother's identity and pursues her own ambitions. A well written engaging tale that gives good supporting documentation for the existence of the story.