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Pope Joan: A Novel Paperback – Aug 19 1997

4.3 out of 5 stars 205 customer reviews

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Paperback, Aug 19 1997
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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; Reissue edition (Aug. 19 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345416260
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345416261
  • Product Dimensions: 13.9 x 2.5 x 20.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 431 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars 205 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #811,082 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Cross makes an excellent, entertaining case in her work of historical fiction that, in the Dark Ages, a woman sat on the papal throne for two years. Born in Ingelheim in A.D. 814 to a tyrannical English canon and the once-heathen Saxon he made his wife, Joan shows intelligence and persistence from an early age. One of her two older brothers teaches her to read and write, and her education is furthered by a Greek scholar who instructs her in languages and the classics. Her mother, however, sings her the songs of her pagan gods, creating a dichotomy within her daughter that will last throughout her life. The Greek scholar arranges for the continuation of her education at the palace school of the Lord Bishop of Dorstadt, where she meets the red-haired knight Gerold, who is to become the love of her life. After a savage attack by Norsemen destroys the village, Joan adopts the identity of her older brother, slain in the raid, and makes her way to Fulda, to become the learned scholar and healer Brother John Anglicus. After surviving the plague, Joan goes to Rome, where her wisdom and medical skills gain her entrance into papal circles. Lavishly plotted, the book brims with fairs, weddings and stupendous banquets, famine, plague and brutal battles. Joan is always central to the vivid action as she wars with the two sides of herself, "mind and heart, faith and doubt, will and desire." Ultimately, though she leads a man's life, Joan dies a woman's death, losing her life in childbirth. 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.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

YA-A woman pope? The author's notes document the possibility that there was one for a brief time in the ninth century. The Joan in this novel has all the qualities a woman would need to become pope: superior intelligence, imagination, daring, and the determination that her sex would not keep her illiterate and subservient, as were most women of the period. Joan is an apt pupil at the cathedral school, where she is allowed to study only because her brother cannot master Latin. A Viking raid on her wedding day gives Joan the opportunity to escape an unwanted marriage; she takes her dead brother's clothes, presents herself at a nearby monastery, and becomes Brother John Anglicus. Her skill in healing and her passion for learning attract attention, and she fears discovery. Still disguised as a monk, Joan takes the pilgrim's road to Rome, where her skills as a healer attract the attention of the Pope himself. YAs, especially girls, will follow the adventures of this amazing heroine with fascination, and at the same time will learn much about life in the Middle Ages, and about the history of this tumultuous period just after the death of Charlemagne.
Molly Connally, Kings Park Library, Fairfax County, VA
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition
I was hoping for a different story about the female pope, and even though I didn't get what I wanted it was still an interesting read. I didn't enjoy myself too much, though, especially when I knew what was going to happen to Joan once her story ended, but it wasn't a painful read as much as one that woud've been better under different circumstances.

There was a lot about her as a child that I didn't care to learn, but I can see how some of it was necessary. She definitely had an interesting past, but I think I would've liked reading more about her hiding her sex while posing as a religious figure. I felt like the story lost depth because of how easy things were going for her, and I didn't ever feel like there was a threat of her being discovered until the very end.

There was one reviewer's comment that I came across that stuck in my head during my read, and I wonder if I would've noticed it in the story had I not come across it before. They said that there were a lot of coincidences in Joan's life that felt too convenient, and I couldn't help but feel that it came down to either chalking it up to divine intervention or calling it out for being unbelievably contrived.

I don't believe some of the narrations were necessary, either. Gerold's didn't offer much depth to the story, but the other two - the rival for Pope and the midwife - didn't provide me much in terms of importance.

I also didn't care much for the romance in the story. I liked Gerold enough, but the age difference between them made them both look terrible, and though their love was well meant I would've preferred if Joan had kept her cool. But as her mother has said to her once, "never give yourself to a man" - and that was her downfall.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was amazed by Pope Joan. Never heard of a female Pope. This book opened my mind up to what life was like for females at this time in history. Totally conceivable that a female who wants to learn to read and write and is not allowed to could live a life that unfolds like this. This concept challenges the Roman Catholic Church and I was so delighted that this wasn't the focus of this book. The author leaves the Roman Catholic politics out of the reading and pays great attention to the power, politics and male insecurities. A surprising piece of history. An easy read. I highly recommend it especially to Catholics. My husband, a Catholic, kept worriedly asking me," Is it true?". Speaks volumes!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Great insight into the times of when women were generally not allowed to get an education and the difficulties one woman faced to rise above the conventions of the day. The power of the church at that time in history is eerily similar to the power of religion in some Islamic countries where women still do not enjoy all the same rights as men. It makes one hopeful to recognize that in the West we were at that stage as well at a few centuries ago, but have come a long way since then.
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Format: Paperback
Unlike one of the previous reviewers, I do find this book to be plausible, given the context. We're not talking about some random village girl who goes and does nothing with her life but get married and have a passel of babies. An extraordinary life is filled with extraordinary events. Equally fantastic, to my mind, is the life of Princess Clotild, who took over her convent with the aid of her sister nuns, recruited bandits and waged open warfare on the bishopric, and essentially made havoc of the clerical system at the end of the 6th century. Her tale seems outrageous, but is documented. Alas the poor fictional heroine, who does not conform to modern American standards of realism and self-help platitudes.... she will be despised!
Ms. Cross got most of her history down - and where she miffed it, she usually realizes it. That alone makes this a valuable book for the average reader. There are no Victorian carriages or Renaissance barges intruding their way into the story. She crafted a world that most people have no clue about. Her scholarship is reasonably good; she is dealing with an era with little or no documentation. She might have looked into the papstfabeln a bit more, but otherwise, did a good job for a non-historian.
Finally, I like the love story. Most of us will never have to face the choice between career and love; that has been one of the benefits of the feminist movement we forget to count. But until less than a century ago, that was the only option for women who did not want the standard path.... and so it is a glimpse for us to remind us how much we have gained.
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Format: Paperback
This was an enjoyable read, but it could have been much more.
The premise that a woman in the 8th century managed to pass herself off as a woman and even to have become Pope is quite intriguing. It's certainly a believable concept. There are several documented cases of women passing themselves off as men throughout history.
Where I have to take issue with the story is that some of the details of Joan's life require just a little too much suspension of disbelief. Joan was born to a minor cleric who was had probably all the hang-ups about women and sex that could possibly be invented by the church at that time. There was the usual; women were the root of all sin, women shouldn't be educated - it's bad for them, women should be kept barefoot and pregnant. It certainly didn't sit well with him that his daughter wanted to learn things other than darning and cooking. The thought of a girl reading Latin just about pushed him over the edge.
But at the same time, her father wanted very badly for his son to be well educated and that gave Joan her break. She got her brother to teach her after father taught him. That part of the story rang plausible. When the older brother dies and a tutor is found for the younger brother, the tutor begins to teach Joan because he finds her so eager and intelligent. I can even believe that. Educators are often liberal and willing to overlook the accepted practices of the day.
When the story breaks down is when Joan runs away with her brother to attend a school that is run by the church. I find it extremely difficult to believe that this was feasible. Large established institutions are not noted (and never have been) for their willingness to be flexible.
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