Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross
When my mom first recommended this book to me and told me it was a fictional account of a female pope, I was hardly sold. Even when I started it, it was very much an ‘I’ll just read this because why not’. Needless to say, I was hardly thrilled to start but once I started, I didn’t want to stop.
This book takes the little we know about Pope Joan, assumes it is true, and then strings together a work of fiction about her life. I think I got caught up in the idea that it was a history book. It’s not. It is a work of fiction, a wonderful story, that just happens to be set in the past and centered around a character that some believe existed (and some do not).
Our main character Joan is born into a world where women are worthless except to bear sons. As an intelligent child she is lucky enough to first have a brother and then other men who are willing to teach her during a time when educating girls was considered bad for their brains.
This is a rich beautifully told story of Joan’s life and how she eventually is able to become Pope. The author herself is not Catholic which is super helpful because she explains what they are doing and why rather than just assuming you understand. A lot of the book is based around the catholic church but not really in a preachy way but rather in a way that explains what they believed and why it was important. Also I found it really interesting to learn where some of our current customs came from.
My biggest problem with the book was probably its romantic element and also the way Joan’s life is just a bit too convenient. Every time something really bad is going to happen, something comes in to change the situation completely. Also I should note that this isn’t really a happy book. There’s a lot of death and destruction and political manipulation which were very common then.
Overall this book was much better than I was expecting and I really enjoyed it.
Also apparently it is being made into a movie?
#12 of 2017