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Illuminations : a novel of Hildegard von Bingen
Sharratt, Mary
Adult Fiction SHARRAT

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From Publishers' Weekly:

Sharratt (Daughters of the Witching Hill) offers up an imaginative retelling of the fascinating life of the 12th-century nun Hildegard von Bingen. As the 10th child, Hildegard is given to the church as a tithe at age eight, whereupon she becomes a handmaiden to the devout and troubled Jutta von Sponheim. Entombed in an anchorage in what is now Germany as brides of Christ under Benedictine rule, Hildegard and Jutta endure their monastic imprisonment for 30 years, during which time Hildegard experiences divine visions. When her anchoress finally dies, Hildegard is granted "free passage in the abbey," but her newfound liberty is accompanied by intensified visions and a desire to make those revelations manifest, an impulse roundly quelled by zealous monks. Nevertheless, years spent captive with Jutta strengthened Hildegard's resolve, and she dutifully perseveres, composing 78 songs; penning a book and hundreds of letters to emperors, popes, and royalty; and going on to found two monasteries. Though confined primarily to the abbey and peopled by a small cast, Sharratt's gripping story, like Ann Patchett's Bel Canto, is primarily about relationships forged under pressure. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

From Library Journal:

Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179) is only eight years old when she is walled up inside two narrow rooms in the wake of her family's decision to "tithe" her to the church as an anchorite. Longing for escape, Hildegard receives comfort from vivid mystical visions of the Divine that combine imagery from the natural world with strong feminine figures. Her controversial decision to create a written record of these visions brings her into heated conflict with church leaders, but also enables her to finally change her circumstances for good. Sharratt (The Vanishing Point; Daughters of the Witching Hill) follows Hildegard as she blossoms from a frightened child into the multitalented abbess still remembered as one of the Catholic Church's most influential thinkers and innovative theologians. VERDICT Interest in Hildegard will likely increase this year following her long-overdue canonization in May and receipt of the title "Doctor of the Church" this coming October. Sharratt's well-timed and well-written portrait, both admiring and humanizing, should please readers looking for an accessible way to learn more about the life of this fascinating medieval woman. [See Prepub Alert, 4/23/12.]-Mara Bandy, Champaign P.L., IL (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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