Pope Joan Paperback – Aug 1 1997
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Top Customer Reviews
The first three parts of "Pope Joan" tell the story of Joanna prior to her arrival in Rome, before she became an historical personage. Set in the ninth century, the narrative captures the European world in disarray after the death of Charlemagne, captures a time when civilization was tenuous and the Church provided one of the few viable social structures. It is this part of the narrative that is unambiguously fictional, the imagined story of Joanna's life in Germany and then in Greece. After her parents die, Joanna clandestinely enters a monastery where she meets the monk Frumentius and develops a romantic relationship with him.Read more ›
Truly, there is no comparison between the Cross and Durrell versions. Jane Austen chided her gullible heroine in "Northanger Abbey" for indulging in pulp Gothic novels that were "all plot and no reflection". The Cross book is all plot and no reflection. Or even worse, it is all agenda and no reflection. It is unabashedly, tediously revisionistic, hell-bent on making Pope Joan an idealized, religiously progressive proto-feminist. Cross projects all our late-twentieth century values onto her, time and place be damned. And it bludgeons you with its purpose for hundreds upon hundreds of pages. Joan never emerges as a character, just a cause. This is a book that in 50 years we will be able to look back upon and say, "Oh, how '90s". Plus, the writing is cliched and really rises no higher than that of "genre" level prose.
The Durrell translation of the Emmanuel Rhodes book is everything the Cross book is not. The prose simply sings, even in translation -- there were passages that were so beautiful, they gave me a palpable headrush. It is filled with gleeful black humor, the plot is tight and well-constructed, and the book, though irreverent, is filled with respect and affection for the character of Joan. Rhodes has no agenda for Joan, he depicts everything with honesty and clarity.Read more ›
Don't read this book if you are looking for the history of Pope Joan, you won't find it here - this book is historical fiction, and Royidis weaves the myth - legend - facts - whatever about the story of a female pope into a satirical 9th century romp through Christendom, from England to Athens and finally to Rome. Royidis's backdrop is tribal Europe, Europe before modern science, where Christianity was just another form of supersitition having to compete with all sorts of paganism and witchery for the hearts and minds of the less than faithful.
Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular has always had a problem with human sexuality and female sexuality in particular, and Royidis uses the story of Joan to poke all sorts of fun and ribaldry at Catholicism and Christianity - and unctuous hypocritical Catholic and Christian leaders. It is almost like shooting fish in a barrel, but Royidis manages to do it imaginatively each and every time. His observations of the 9th century from the 19th century resonate well here in the 21st, it seems we are as slave to superstition and hypocrisy as our forebearers were.
This is a fun to read, funny book, about a bellylaugh per page. I recommend highly!
Most recent customer reviews
I enjoyed Cross's version of this story, especially the historical detours into the state of law and medicine in the Dark Ages. Read morePublished on July 8 1999
I purchased this book at the same time that I purchased Donna Woolfolk Cross's book. For a long time I didn't read it, thinking it would be too dry and difficult, being a... Read morePublished on May 27 1998
Forget the veracity of the events in question...this book is beautifully written, extremely thoughtful, provocative and quite humorous (which is why Mr. Read morePublished on Jan. 20 1998