Publisher and Publication Date: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. April 27, 2021.
Genre: Historical fiction. Women and literature. Medieval history. Travel.
Audience: Readers of historical fiction.
Mary Sharratt’s website/ Facebook/ Twitter/ Goodreads author page
For more information about the book visit: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. This link provides an excerpt at the bottom of the page.
To read more information about Margery Kempe:
Medieval Studies Research Blog on Margery Kempe
British Library– This link shows illustrations of her autobiography.
Margery Kempe was born about 1373 and died after 1438 or 1440. We do not know precise dates of her birth and death. She was born and lived in Bishop’s Lynn, Norfolk, England. She married John Kempe. They had 14 children. She began having visions after the birth of her first child. She was about 20. She continued to have visions. Some visions were of Jesus Christ sitting next to her. Some of the visions were frightening creatures. She is considered a mystic. She is not a Catholic saint, but she is remembered in the Anglican Communion. Her autobiography is the first in the English language.
After the birth of her 14th child, she told her husband they should not be sexually intimate anymore. She had a difficult labor with the 14th child. She did not want to risk her life with another pregnancy and labor. To cut herself off from her husband was shocking, unheard of during this era; and it marked her as an uncommon and disobedient wife. She began preaching to women, she traveled extensively without her family; and she visited Julian of Norwich, another female mystic, to seek support and guidance. She was arrested several times. She was tortured. She was considered a heretic. Her autobiography is written with transparency about her life. It is an unusual story for its time. It is a story about a woman living during the middle ages who endured many of the same things other women endured, except Kempe’s visions and pilgrimages set her apart.
Revelations is a remarkable story. It is a story that causes me to pause and reflect on what it must have been like to be a woman who didn’t have a choice to say no. No was a forbidden word for females. Females were to be compliant and obedient. If they were not, they were viewed with suspicion.
Several reasons led me to give an excellent rating to Revelations.
1. I love the characterization of Margery Kempe. She is a woman ahead of her times. She loves her children but felt drawn to something more. She illustrates what grief does to people. She has a strong personality but is stifled by culture. Her character develops in her maturity. Through her story, I understand maternal and child health during this era.
2. I have not read another story about Margery Kempe.
3. Descriptive setting of her travel mode, scenery, people, and the places or cities she saw.
4. Other female characters in the story gave different perspectives on women’s lives of this era and how they felt about Margery.
5. The story is chronological or linear. I am so glad to read a story that is not multiple time periods going back and forth.
6. The story shows male and female relationships, especially marriage. I am more sad than angry at the dominance of males over females. Sad for the females of course.
7. The story shows the different roles or responses from her children. People are people and their perspective and behavior is varied, but I saw her children showing different responses to her life.
8. Inner and outward conflicts.
9. Revelations is one of my favorite types of historical fiction: women in history.
10. There is a building of sensory, imagination, fear, anxiety, and tension.
Themes in Revelations: death and dying, bravery, courage, kindness, innocence, shame, suffering, judgement, injustice, conformity, charity, and hope.