Skillfully weaving historical fact with psychological insight and vivid imagination, Illuminations brings to life one of the most extraordinary women of the Middle Ages: Hildegard von Bingen, Benedictine abbess, visionary, and polymath.
Offered to the Church at the age of eight, Hildegard was expected to live in silent submission as the handmaiden of a renowned, disturbed young nun, Jutta von Sponheim. But Hildegard rejected Jutta’s masochistic piety, rejoicing in her own secret visions of the divine. When Jutta died, Hildegard broke out of her prison, answering the heavenly call to speak and write about her visions and to liberate her sisters. Riveting and utterly unforgettable, Illuminations is a deeply moving portrayal of a woman willing to risk everything for what she believed.
Ever so often, I will come across a book that not only captivates me, but truly impacts me as a person. This is one of those books. Understanding that this book is based during a time when it was common for young girls to be married to older men or dead at an early age, young girls with hefty dowries were given to the Church to live their lives as nuns. Such is the life of Hildegard, only her life wasn’t to be a nun, but of the handmaiden to an Anchorite.
Feared by her mother for the visions Hildegard had, she was given to Jutta-a young girl, who had her own demons to contend with. Hildegard’s was the 10th child and her mother saw that giving Hildegard to the Church was her way of giving to God, His 10%, in hopes of sparing their family from God’s wrath (as she saw Hildegard’s visions as a curse). Hildegard was loved by her brother, Rorich, and her nurse, Walburga. Being given unconditional love from them, and her faith in her visions and God, gave her the ability to sustain being locked away, underneath the Church.
I was absolutely saddened and horrified to learn of the self-mutilation and self-hate Jutta had for herself. Due to the abuse she endured at the hands of her brother, Jutta never came to a point where she could forgive him, herself for blaming herself, and truly seeking the grace and love only God can give. It was absolutely saddening to read how she lived her life, and while the monks and people revered her, Hildegard had first glance at the true devastation and self-hatred her life was.
Hildegard, given at 8 to Jutta and the Church, served and used her visions, music, and love to help other young girls, who became nuns. She is a woman of devout faith and it was quite interesting to see how in the small place she lived, that she was able to maintain an herb garden and helped people with ailments (as they came to her). Her visions were quite interesting to read about and motivated her to continue doing the work she felt she needed to do, even at the expense of her own freedom.
There is so much in this story that is difficult to explain it all. The amount of research and detail is exceptional and Mary Sharratt is a phenomenal writer, who deserves to receive positive recognition for an incredibly well written book! Despite all the detail and information, the storyline is smooth, written beautifully, and I was just in awe at the end of the book.
I highly recommend this book, as this is definitely one of my all time favorite books!
About The Author:
The author of four critically acclaimed historical novels, Mary Sharratt is an American who lives in the Pendle region of Lancashire, England, the setting for her acclaimed Daughters of the Witching Hill, which recasts the Pendle Witches of 1612 in their historical context as cunning folk and healers. She also lived for twelve years in Germany, which, along with her interest in sacred music and herbal medicine, inspired her to write Illuminations: A Novel of Hildegard von Bingen. Illuminations won the Nautilus Gold Award for Better Books for a Better World and was selected as a Kirkus Book of the Year.
Virtual Book Tour Schedule
Wednesday, October 16 Review at Bitches with Books
Friday, October 18 Interview at Flashlight Commentary
Monday, October 21 Review at Book of Secrets
Friday, October 25 Interview & Giveaway at Just One More Chapter
Monday, October 28 Review at Bloggin’ ’bout Books
Tuesday, October 29 Review at Griperang’s Bookmarks
Wednesday, October 30 Review at Ageless Pages Reviews
Monday, November 4 Guest Post & Giveaway at HF Book Muse – News
Thursday, November 7 Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!
Friday, November 8 Review at History and Women
Wednesday, November 13 Review at The Musings of ALMYBNENR
Friday, November 15 Review at Books in the Burbs
- Illuminations (bookaliciousmama.com)
- Musical Embodiment and Hildegard von Bingen (jennapalin.wordpress.com)
- Backstory: Illuminations: A Novel of Hildegard von Bingen by Mary Sharratt (mjroseblog.typepad.com)
- Quotation for the Day: Sparks of Divine Love (heidiatheartspace.wordpress.com)
- Hildegard of Bingen (bibliolore.org)
- I welcome all the creatures of the world with grace. – The Voice of Hildegard of Bingen (soundartcreator.wordpress.com)
- Blog Tour – Ignite by Tessa Teevan – Holly’s 4 Star Review, Excerpt and Giveaway (hollyshotreads.wordpress.com)
- Info about St. Hildegard of Bingen “Prophetess of the Rhine” (angelsandcelestials.wordpress.com)