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Pope Joan, by Donna Woolfolk Cross - Excerpt

Pope Joan, by Donna Woolfolk Cross - Excerpt

Ratings:

3.85

(767)
|Views: 375 |Likes:
"Pope Joan has all the elements one wants in a historical drama–love, sex, violence, duplicity, and long-buried secrets. Cross has written an engaging book."–Los Angeles Times Book Review

For a thousand years her existence has been denied. She is the legend that will not die–Pope Joan, the ninth-century woman who disguised herself as a man and rose to become the only female ever to sit on the throne of St. Peter. Now in this riveting novel, Donna Woolfolk Cross paints a sweeping portrait of an unforgettable heroine who struggles against restrictions her soul cannot accept.

Brilliant and talented, young Joan rebels against medieval social strictures forbidding women to learn. When her brother is brutally killed during a Viking attack, Joan takes up his cloak–and his identity–and enters the monastery of Fulda. As Brother John Anglicus, Joan distinguishes herself as a great scholar and healer. Eventually, she is drawn to Rome, where she becomes enmeshed in a dangerous web of love, passion, and politics. Triumphing over appalling odds, she finally attains the highest office in Christendom–wielding a power greater than any woman before or since. But such power always comes at a price . . .

In this international bestseller, Cross brings the Dark Ages to life in all their brutal splendor and shares the dramatic story of a woman whose strength of vision led her to defy the social restrictions of her day.
"Pope Joan has all the elements one wants in a historical drama–love, sex, violence, duplicity, and long-buried secrets. Cross has written an engaging book."–Los Angeles Times Book Review

For a thousand years her existence has been denied. She is the legend that will not die–Pope Joan, the ninth-century woman who disguised herself as a man and rose to become the only female ever to sit on the throne of St. Peter. Now in this riveting novel, Donna Woolfolk Cross paints a sweeping portrait of an unforgettable heroine who struggles against restrictions her soul cannot accept.

Brilliant and talented, young Joan rebels against medieval social strictures forbidding women to learn. When her brother is brutally killed during a Viking attack, Joan takes up his cloak–and his identity–and enters the monastery of Fulda. As Brother John Anglicus, Joan distinguishes herself as a great scholar and healer. Eventually, she is drawn to Rome, where she becomes enmeshed in a dangerous web of love, passion, and politics. Triumphing over appalling odds, she finally attains the highest office in Christendom–wielding a power greater than any woman before or since. But such power always comes at a price . . .

In this international bestseller, Cross brings the Dark Ages to life in all their brutal splendor and shares the dramatic story of a woman whose strength of vision led her to defy the social restrictions of her day.

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Publish date: Jun 9, 2009
Added to Scribd: Jun 02, 2009
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reserved

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08/21/2013

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POPE JOAN
A N
O V E L
D
ONNA
W
OOLFOLK
C
ROSS
 
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents eitherare the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Anyresemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirelycoincidental.Copyright
©
1996, 2009
by Donna Woolfolk CrossAll rights reserved.Published in the United States by Three Rivers Press, an imprint of theCrown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc.,New York.www.crownpublishing.comThree Rivers Press and the Tugboat design are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication DataCross, Donna Woolfolk.Pope Joan / Donna Cross.—
1
st Three Rivers Press ed.Originally published: New York : Crown,
©
1996.1.
 Joan (Legendary Pope)—Fiction.
2.
Popes—Legends—Fiction. I. Title.
ps3553
.
r572p662009813
'.
6
—dc
222008051919isbn978-0-307-45236-8
Printed in the United States of America
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
First Three Rivers Press Edition
www.ThreeRiversPress.com

Activity (52)

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astrologerjenny reviewed this
Rated 3/5
I enjoyed this very plausible, well-written historical novel. It’s vivid both in the settings and in the characters. It’s a brutal time, in which people are constantly fending off invaders and being conscripted for wars, while having to prove how pious they are.

Pope Joan is a pope with a secret, mainly that she’s passing as a man. And to me, this rings very true. With the low opinion of women that was common at the time, I’m sure a lot of women decided to go this route, even with the great danger of being discovered.

Of course, there is a romance in this book, and of course, Joan is constantly torn between love and the opportunities that have unfolded for her. My only real complaint with the book is that her lover, Gerold, is a bit one-dimensional: handsome, brave, understanding, accepting, pretty much perfect. He seems to have stepped out of a bodice-ripper and landed here in a more thoughtful novel.
mawls reviewed this
Rated 4/5
Definitely a page turner. Sometimes I felt the action was too abrupt with not enough build up, but I can easily look past that and I say I really couldn't get enough of this book. The subject nature is intriguing and it's a well told story.
teenielee reviewed this
Rated 4/5
I love religious conspiracies... I also love stories of women who are trying to be smarter than the world wants them to be. Hooray for Pope Joan!
auranefertari reviewed this
Rated 5/5
A compelling look at a little-known Dark Ages legend. Cross has certainly done her research and patched together a story that is astonishingly believable in addition to well-written.
melydia_1 reviewed this
Rated 4/5
Back in the Middle Ages there was a popular legend of a 9th century woman who, disguised as a man, became Pope. Whether or not you believe this to be the truth doesn't matter much, because the story of this brave and intelligent woman is engaging regardless. I loved learning about all the strange superstitions and infuriating prejudices. Joan's own journey captured my heart as well. Excellent historical fiction.
olgalijo reviewed this
Rated 4/5
Having grown up in a society in which women were (and sometimes still are) very coherced by their sex, I found Joan to be a very believable character. Sometimes the plotline seems to be a little too thin, with a very real character being led by luck toward a destiny in too many instances. Even so, one can see Joan taking those decisions. The Dark Ages setting is also a very difficult one to pull off, from a writers point of view. There are so many details of day to day life that are unknown to us, that it seems to be an impossible task to create a vibrant setting for the main story. In this case the attempt is successful, and one feels to be then and there while following Joan's life and tribulations.
sleahey_3 reviewed this
Rated 4/5
This historic novel is based on possible history, depending on the accuracy of disparate written accounts of Ninth Century Europe. Regardless, this is an interesting story of a strong women at a time when it wasn't believed that women had any rights, need to reason or be educated, or function other than childbearing and tending the home. The prose is sometimes excessively dense, but the reader gets a strong sense of the times, the barbarity of war, the weakness of Roman politics, and the duplicity of the Church. The unrequited romance carries the plot along to a fairly abrupt ending.
dorritt_1 reviewed this
Rated 3/5
I really did want to like this book. The author is a good storyteller, does a wonderful job of evoking a real sense of the period (no shirking of historical research here), and the idea of a female pope is a fascinating one. One can imagine that spiritual women denied access to the church, or clever women denied access to learning, might indeed have sought to escape the confines of their gender. But somewhere between Joan/John outarguing Greek philosophers, becoming a famous healer, inventing intinction, miraculously surviving beatings/viking raids/plague, inventing modern courtroom procedure (witnesses, questioning), establishing orphanages, saving peasants from floods, cleverly applying her knowledge of hydraulic engineering to save the Vatican from an invading Frankish army, saving the pope from assassination, exposing ecclesiastical corruption, and thwarting a raging city fire, I found it harder and harder to keep suspending disbelief. This Pope Joan is a liberal, feminist, secular humanist, Dark Ages superhero rather than a living, breathing, believable woman of her time. The author takes such pains to eliminate anachronism in all other aspects of the novel: perhaps that is why John/Joan's highly anachronistic behavior & beliefs seem so grating in contrast. John/Joan's enamorata Gerold is also a disappointment. There is no attempt at character development here. Think Ken to Joan's Barbie, Ned to Joan's Nancy Drew ... the tall, lusty, handsome, resourceful hero of any one of a thousand cheesy romance novels. Finally, I was disappointed by the author's overreliance on deus ex machina. Far too often she relies on improbable plot twists, timely intercessions and amazing coincidences to move her plot forward. I don't want to spoil the plot for potential readers - but I will say that Joan always seems to be behind the right wall when there is a useful conversation to be overheard, Viking raids have never been more conveniently timed, and old friends/allies have a way of miraculously appearing just when they are most needed. I guess I'm saying that while this is an entertaining book, it is certainly not a great book. Be prepared to enjoy it for the story & the history, but not necessarily for the literary merit.
pssm95 reviewed this
Rated 5/5
A really stunning first novel, based on the historical person who disguised herself as a man and rose to the rank of Pope.
marient_5 reviewed this
Rated 4/5
For a thousand years her existence has been denied. She is the legend that will not die. Pope Joanm the ninth century woman who disguised herself as a man and rose to become the only female ever to sit on the throne of St. Peter. Medieval women were forbidden to learn. When her brother is killed in a Viking raid, Joan takes up his cloak and his identity and enters the monastery of Fulda as Brother John Anglicus.

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