by Mary Sharratt

A kind of fifteenth-century Eat, Pray, Love, Revelations illuminates the intersecting lives of two female mystics who changed history—Margery Kempe and Julian of Norwich.

  • Format: eBook
  • ISBN-13/ EAN: 9781328518781
  • ISBN-10: 1328518787
  • Pages: 320
  • Publication Date: 04/27/2021
  • Carton Quantity: 1

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About the Book
About the Author
  • About the Book
    A fifteenth-century Eat, Pray, Love, Revelations illuminates the intersecting lives of two female mystics who changed history—Margery Kempe and Julian of Norwich. 


    Bishop’s Lynn, England, 1413. At the age of forty, Margery Kempe has nearly died giving birth to her fourteenth child. Fearing that another pregnancy might kill her, she makes a vow of celibacy, but she can’t trust her husband to keep his end of the bargain. Desperate for counsel, she visits the famous anchoress Dame Julian of Norwich. 


    Pouring out her heart, Margery confesses that she has been haunted by visceral religious visions. Julian then offers up a confession of her own: she has written a secret, radical book about her own visions, Revelations of Divine Love. Nearing the end of her life and fearing Church authorities, Julian entrusts her precious book to Margery, who sets off the adventure of a lifetime to secretly spread Julian's words. 


    Mary Sharratt vividly brings the medieval past to life as Margery blazes her trail across Europe and the Near East, finding her unique spiritual path and vocation. It's not in a cloistered cell like Julian, but in the full bustle of worldly existence with all its wonders and perils.

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  • Excerpts

    Anno Domini 1390

    When I first saw the Mysteries at York, I was seventeen and as vain as Salome. 

         All the way from Bishop’s Lynn in Norfolk we had ridden, a seven-day journey. We were well rewarded, for the City of York was a moving pageant. Scattered through the streets and squares were the wagons, wains, and carts where the plays were performed that narrated the entire sweep of history from the Creation to the End of Days. Such a spectacle! Yet I can say without lying that as I rode past those decorated stages all eyes were on me. Even the players forgot their lines as they gaped and stared. 

         How could they not? I rode a dappled chestnut mare, her bridle inlaid with polished silver shining in the June sun. White roses and green ribbons were plaited in her flaxen mane. And I was showier still. As befitting the Mayor of Lynn’s only daughter, I wore gold piping on my towering headdress. My long trailing sleeves were dagged with tippets and slashed to reveal the many-colored brocades beneath. Pearls and coral beads gleamed at my throat. Even my Ave beads, hanging on display from my girdle, were of Baltic amber. My father had grown rich as a trader, exporting wool and grain and importing wine, timber, and fur. His ships sailed as far as Russia. Father was not only Mayor of Bishop’s Lynn, but a member of Parliament and a justice of the peace. A descendent of the de Brunhams of Brunham Manor in Norfolk, his kin had served as clerics for the Black Prince. 

         My lofty perch in the saddle allowed me to see over the heads of the poorer, horseless folk as I watched the Mystery of Creation. A young man in a flesh-colored tunic—​intended to hint at the nakedness of Adam—​lay on his side while an old man with a beard of purest white waved his hands. Then, up from behind the reclining young man, rose a girl in a flesh-colored shift, as though she had been conjured from the boy’s side. We gasped as we beheld Mother Eve—​a tanner’s fourteen-year-old daughter with long golden hair. She stood beneath a sapling apple tree placed upon the cart. From its branches hung fruit fashioned from crimson leather and a real dead snake—​the Tanners’ Guild had stuffed it to make it seem as lifelike as possible. Eve put her ear to the wicked serpent’s mouth before offering Adam the apple. We all crossed ourselves and held our breath as we witnessed the original sin, our fall from grace. 

         Yet I was lighthearted. Flanked by my parents and our servants, I gladly accepted the cup of caudled ale that the alewife pressed in my hand. Sipping the spiced brew, I reveled in the performance, the sheer pageantry of these Mysteries, so unlike anything I would have ever seen in mercantile, money-counting Lynn. 

         When the first Mystery ended, we wound our way up Petergate to see the next. We passed jugglers, minstrels, acrobats leaping backward to land upon their hands, and even a dancing bear. Still, I was the one who turned everyone’s head. A confectioner fawned as he lifted his tray of sweetmeats for my perusal. I took my time in making my selection, intently examining his delectable morsels of honeycomb, currants, and almonds as I reveled in his admiration. 

         Mother rolled her eyes. “Margery, you’ve grown insufferable! Remember, my dear, pride comes before the fall.” 

         Once Mother had been the great beauty of Lynn, or so Father told everyone in his jovial way, but birthing twelve babies had taken its toll. Though she was no less sumptuously attired than I, she had lost half her teeth and her face looked tired and pale. The greatest injustice my mother suffered was that only two of her children had survived—​my brother, Robert, who couldn’t join us in York because he had sailed across the seas to trade, and I. Even our family’s wealth and position were no match for the contagions that killed infants in their cradles. 

         “Leave Margery be,” Father told Mother. “Soon enough she’ll be married and having daughters of her own.” 

         At that remark, I only smiled, confident that Father would want me to take my time choosing a husband. After all, my dowry was the envy of Lynn. I’d no intention of settling for the first herring merchant or wool dealer to call at our big house in Briggate near the Stone Bridge, which my father owned. With my riches and youth, my green eyes and honey-brown hair, I could pick and choose a man with the same dreamy whimsy as I’d plucked the most delectable sweetmeat off the confectioner’s tray. 

         But even then, there was more to me than that, a part of myself I’d learned to hide. Beneath my costly linens and silks, my soul was always hungry, always craving something greater than the narrow streets of Lynn and a future of dutifully bearing babies. I envied my brother, who owned a ship and sailed to the great Hanseatic ports—​Bremen and Hamburg and Danzig. How my spirits feasted on the City of York, second only to London in the entire realm. All these new sights, from the castle to the Merchant Adventurers’ Hall. The great minster put our parish church of Saint Margaret’s to shame. Never in my seventeen years had I seen so much stained glass. With Mother and her maidservant at my heels, I traipsed through the vast nave, craning my neck to examine every window. My favorite was the scene of Saint Anne teaching her daughter, the young Virgin Mary, to read. Mother had taught me to read in English, as befitting my station as the mayor’s daughter. But I hungered for more. I wished I were some high-learned soul who was truly literate—​literate in Latin. I burned with curiosity to decipher the secrets hidden in the arcane tomes that the clerks hoarded in their libraries. 

         I made do with the one book I owned, a lavishly illuminated book of hours, which was my most treasured possession. As the minster bells rang the office of Sext, I knelt beside Mother and opened my book to the appropriate page, moving my finger beneath the beautiful black letters spelling out the words of our Latin prayers.

    As ravenous as I was for books, I took the greatest pleasure in maps, which raised me to the heavens and gave me a picture of all that lay below—​the jagged coastlines and serpentine rivers. The City of York was marked by its heraldic white rose, its castellated walls, spired churches, and mighty minster. I knew Lynn by its famed harbor bristling with ships. So great was my love of maps that Father nicknamed me Compass Rose. 

         “Compass Rose,” he said to me when our week in York had reached its end and it was time to journey home. “My eyes aren’t as sharp as they used to be. Read the map for me, won’t you?” 

         We had just ridden out of Walmgate Bar, York’s eastern gate. The Vale of York spread before us, green hedges glistening with dew. Taking the map from Father, I unscrolled the tableau of rolling hills, towns, and hamlets, and traced the roads and highways with my finger. I felt as though I held the world in my hands.

    The journey, I confess, delighted me far more than the destination. What a thrill it was to ride across the land even when the clouds showered hail and forced us to shelter beneath thickly leafed trees. Seeing the terrain constantly change before my eyes made my heart beat

  • Reviews
    “Intense…Margery’s faith and emotions are rich on the page"—Publishers Weekly 


    "Richly atmospheric...a fascinating and important story." Minneapolis Star Tribune 


    "Revelations is skillfully set-dressed, its players lavishly — and appropriately — costumed...Mary Sharratt tackles Margery’s adventures with a lively earnestness." —Los Angeles Review of Books 


    "This book gives the reader inspiration to realize all she accomplished in her society. If Kempe was able to travel the world, write a book, and forge her own path, we should be able to do the same...[Sharrat] has brought Margery Kempe back to life and made her an inspiration for us all."  —Christian Feminism Today


    "Sharratt evokes the sights and smells of medieval England as viscerally as she does Margery's divine ecstasy, immersing readers in both her inner and outer journeys...Revelations will appeal to any reader interested in tales driven by a flawed woman with a certain purpose."—Booklist  


    “Historical fiction at its best.”—Kirkus Reviews, starred review 


    “Mystic or madwoman? Mary Sharrat makes this controversial woman a sympathetic character, defined and defied by the time in which she lived. Revelations is filled with fascinating details about the perils of the 15th-century pilgrim road, especially for a woman daring enough to travel it alone.”—Donna Woolfolk Cross, internationally bestselling author of Pope Joan 


    “Set during a time of fervid religious persecution, Mary Sharratt’s carefully researched, capaciously imagined Revelations brings to vivid life 15th century Christian mystic Margery Kempe. A transporting novel that captures both the harsh reality of medieval womanhood and the mystery of the divine.” —Cathy Marie Buchanan, New York Times bestselling author of The Painted Girls and Daughter of Black Lake 


    "Considered through the female gaze, Margery Kempe’s travels and travails take on new significance as she undertakes a dangerous mission for Julian of Norwich in a time of Lollard persecution and a misogynist Church patriarchy. Thriller, domestic tragedy, medieval travelogue, meditation on a woman’s spiritual awakening, Revelations pulses with life. A gem of a book. Highly recommended!"—Candace Robb, author of the bestselling Owen Archer mysteries 


    "Mary Sharratt's Revelations is a book worthy of its fascinating subject. A deeply imaginative and empathetic novel, full of surprises and delights."—Bruce Holsinger, USA Today bestselling author of The Gifted School and A Burnable Book 


    "In this beautifully rendered tale, Mary Sharratt has managed to capture the ecstatic and vulnerable wisdom of the holy madwoman, Margery Kempe, and distill the quintessence of feminine wisdom.  I love the way she weaves the radically optimistic teachings of Julian of Norwich into Margery’s journey.  Revelations brings these two medieval luminaries to life with startling relevance for our times."—Mirabai Starr, translator of The Showings of Julian of Norwich and author of Wild Mercy 


    "Revelations brings to vivid life Margery Kemp and her world with all its riotous color, conflicting religious beliefs, deadly perils, saints and sinners. In Sharratt’s skillful re-imagining of Kemp’s travels and travails she gives us a Margery Kemp who is not only wife, mother, steadfast pilgrim, and surely one of the most remarkable women of her time, but also an implausible yet endearing heroine. Sometimes incredible, sometimes bizarre, Revelations is a fascinating journey into both the medieval world and the medieval mind."—Patricia Bracewell, author of The Steel Beneath the Silk​ 


    "Revelations is skillfully set-dressed, its players lavishly — and appropriately — costumed...Mary Sharratt tackles Margery’s adventures with a lively earnestness." —Los Angeles Review of Books