Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross

Pope JoanPope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross is the story of a woman, who, disguised as a man, rises to highest position in the Catholic Church. It is a novel, since the existence of Pope Joan is denied by the Catholic Church. However, this serves to make the book more interesting, since the author can fill in dramatic details. Joan’s downfall is sort of obvious and disappointing, but is apparently found in historical sources. The misogyny and brutality of the time (ninth century) is rather horrifying, but is accurate to the time period. Recommended.

Availability: USMAI
Review Submitted by: Rebecca Thayer
Rating:  Recommended.

One thought on “Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross

  1. Donna Woolfolk Cross

    I’m Donna Woolfolk Cross, the author of Pope Joan, writing to thank you for your review of my novel, long labor of my heart. Indeed you are right: the details of ninth century life are horrifying to us today–but they are accurate (I spent over seven years researching this book). And the final verdict on Joan–that is, whether she actually existed or not–is still out. The revised 2009 edition of Pope Joan, published by Broadway Press, has some startling new evidence in favor of Joan’s existence that emerged since my novel was since published. But either way, truth or fiction, Joan’s story is certainly unusual–and in my view, deeply inspirational.

    Reading group members should know of my offer to “join the conversation” by speakerphone on the night their group discusses the novel, to answer about the book (which characters or events are historical, which fictional, for example). Details can be found at http://www.popejoan.com.

    And thanks again for your well-written review!


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