By Donna Woolfolk Cross
(Ballantine Books, Paperback, 9780345416261, 448pp.)
Publication Date: August 19, 1997
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"Engaging . . . Pope Joan has all the elements: love, sex, violence, duplicity, and long-buried secrets."
--Los Angeles Times Book Review
For a thousand years men have denied her existence--Pope Joan, the woman who disguised herself as a man and rose to rule Christianity for two years. Now this compelling novel animates the legend with a portrait of an unforgettable woman who struggles against restrictions her soul cannot accept.
When her older brother dies in a Viking attack, the brilliant young Joan assumes his identity and enters a Benedictine monastery where, as Brother John Anglicus, she distinguishes herself as a scholar and healer. Eventually drawn to Rome, she soon becomes enmeshed in a dangerous mix of powerful passion and explosive politics that threatens her life even as it elevates her to the highest throne in the Western world.
"Brings the savage ninth century vividly to life in all its alien richness. An enthralling, scholarly historical novel."
--Rebecca Fraser, Author of The Brontës
Donna Woolfolk Cross graduated cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, from the University of Pennsylvania in 1969 with a B.A. in English. She moved to London, England, after graduation and worked as an editorial assistant for a small publishing house on Fleet Street, W.H. Allen and Company. Upon her return to the United States, Cross worked at Young and Rubicam, a Madison Avenue advertising firm, before going on to graduate school at UCLA where she earned a master's degree in Literature and Writing in 1972.
In 1973, Cross moved to Syracuse, New York, with her husband and began teaching in the English department at an upstate New York college. She is the author of two books on language, Word Abuse and Mediaspeak, and coauthor of Speaking of Words. The product of seven years of research and writing, Pope Joan is her first novel. Cross is at work on a new novel set in 17th century France.
Excerpts from reviews of Donna Woolfolk Cross' Pope Joan
"No one knows for sure if Pope Joan, or Pope John Anglicus as she called
herself, really existed.--After finishing Donna Cross' novelization of
Joan's life, one may want her to be a real person, only because it is so
gratifying to read about those rare heroes whose strength of vision
enables them to ignore the almost overpowering messages of their own
-- Los Angeles Times Book Review
"A remarkable woman uses her considerable intellect--and more than a
little luck--to rise from humble origins to become the only female Pope,
in this breakneck adventure from newcomer Cross."
-- Kirkus Reviews
"--Cross' drama draws predictable conclusions about the way a woman might
handle power, but given the certain punishment that awaits Joan should
anyone discover her secret, this cross-dressing saga is also a page
"In her first novel, Donna Woolfolk Cross--illuminates the Dark Ages and
its attendant milieu of barbarism, politics, bigotry, and religion.
Pope Joan also is a story of passion and faith--and a reminder that
something never change, only the stage and the players do."
-- Morning Star Telegram
"Cross succeeds admirably, grounding her fast-moving tale in a wealth of
rich historical detail. If Joan wasn't pope, she should have been."
-- Orlando Sentinel
"A fascinating and moving account of a woman's determination to learn
despite the opposition of family and society. Highly recommended."
--Library Journal (starred review)