AMAZON UK £3.99 £7.41
AMAZON US $5.39 $17.36
AMAZON CA $6.63
early 16th Century
First, a confession. All I really knew of Martin Luther was an impression of a man in monk's garb (incorrect) nailing parchments to church doors in the dead of night (also incorrect) and schoolboy giggles when reading about a diet of Worms. Thus, when this book arrived in my inbox, my heart rather sunk a bit for it is not a period that I am particularly well-versed, or even interested, in.
However, any misgivings I may have had were dispelled completely by the time I had reached the second page. The quality and style – written in the first person and the present tense – didn't so much grab me as to physically haul me back through the centuries and wouldn't let me go until I had read every single word.
Katherina von Bora is taken from her home as a five year old to a Cistercian nunnery in a faraway town on the wishes of her new stepmother. Speech is sometimes allowed, but she learns to communicate by signing and excels at the skills she is taught. Illicit tracts written by Martin Luther are smuggled in and Katherina and her friends slowly become influenced by them and they doubt their beliefs. The chance to abscond presents itself and several of the nuns take advantage of the opportunity and are transported to Wittenberg. Katherina is, by this time, a young woman and has already taken her vows. She is taken in by a rich family and soon approached by a young man who presses his suit. But it is not to be.
Interspersed with the story are italicised segments where Katherina is older and obviously ill, for her ramblings in these often lead to the next part of main story. The author skilfully blends these pieces in and they are never intrusive.
There is so much to enjoy in this sparkling novel that brings the characters to life, including the rather dour Martin Luther, but most especially Katherina's progress from child to woman. The book ends with their marriage and I was delighted to see that a sequel is due to be released later this year and I am excited about that for there is a lot more of Katherina to be told.
Very highly recommended
© Richard Tearle
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