I first heard about Margery Kempe from other books I was reading, and then read reviews of this book on Amazon. At that point I decided she would make an ideal fictional character and so I had to read this piece for story material's sake.
I was not disappointed. Margery Kempe, a real "live" medieval woman (dates 1373-c. 1438) was an ecstatic, a visionary, a far-traveled pilgrim, mother to fourteen children, and, in the opinion of many, a complete loon. She talked to Jesus and God Almighty on a regular basis, though the latter never got beyond the most domestic of advice and assurances. Some think she was epileptic or schizophrenic, though she displays far too much savvy and good health to convince me that either was the case. Let us just say she was "unique."
Most remarkably for an illiterate woman is the fact that she traveled so far while relying only on her own wit and resources (excepting the occasional begging) and before the end of her life managed to dictate her memoirs to a priest. As a result, there is possibly no medieval woman we know more intimately than Margery Kempe.
And what a life! Travels aside, she was hailed as a holy woman and hauled before the authorities for heresy (though she was vouchsafed orthodox time and time again). Everywhere she went she antagonized and irritated people, but this did not stop significant crowds of well wishers from showing up outside of her prison to support her. She was filled with contradictions--a would be martyr, saint and megalomaniac. In short, she was infinitely human and flawed.
This book is a well informed narrative based on her memoirs. It gives us a great idea of Margery's life and times, putting everything within its historical context. A must read for anyone interested in the Middle Ages.