Pope Joan (Paperback)
Three Rivers Press (CA), 9780307452368, 425pp.
Publication Date: June 9, 2009
"Pope Joan has all the elements one wants in a historical drama - love, sex, violence, duplicity, and long-buried secrets. Cross has written an engaging book."-Los Angeles Times Book Review
In this international bestseller and basis for the 2009 movie of the same name, Donna Woolfolk Cross brings the Dark Ages to life in all their brutal splendor and shares the dramatic story of a woman whose strength of vision led her to defy the social restrictions of her day.
"Brings the savage ninth century vividly to life in all its alien richness. An enthralling, scholarly historical novel."
--Rebecca Fraser, Author of The Brontes
About the Author
Praise For Pope Joan…
“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 historical periods. . . . Pope Joan has all the elements one wants: love, sex, violence, duplicity and long-buried secrets. Cross has written an engaging book.” –Los Angeles Times Book Review
“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)
“Cross makes an excellent, entertaining case that in the Dark Ages, a woman sat on the papal throne. . . . A colorful, richly imagined novel.” –Publishers Weekly
“Pope Joan reveals the harsh realities of the Dark Ages. Violence is rife in the government, church and home; logic and reason are shunned as “dangerous ideas” and women are considered useful only as men’s servants and child bearers. The novel explores the extraordinary life of an independent, intelligent and courageous woman who overcomes oppression and ascends to the highest level of religious power. . . . Cross’ masterful use of anticipation, as well as the sweeping historical landscape of the story, keep Pope Joan intriguing. . . . An exciting journey through history as it’s being made.”–San Francisco Chronicle
“Eloquently written and spellbinding in its account of this legendary figure.” –Arizona Republic
“The life of an intelligent, headstrong woman in 9th-century Europe, the kind of woman who might have dared such an adventure in an era when obedience was a woman’s most admired trait. . . . Cross succeeds admirably, grounding her fast-moving tale in a wealth of rich historical detail.” –Orlando Sentinel
“A story of passion and faith–and a reminder that some things never change, only the stage and players do.”–Fort Worth Star-Telegram
“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.” –Kirkus Reviews
“A page-turner!” –Glamour
Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com
- Did Joan make the right choice at that moment when she decided to disguise herself as her dead brother? What would her life have been like had she chosen differently?
- What happens to Joan when she tries to improve the lives of women and the poor? Why do you think Church and civic leaders were resistant to such improvements? Have there been similar instances in modern society?
- Discuss the inner conflicts Joan faces. How do these conflicts affect the decisions she makes? Are they ever truly resolved?
- Do you think Joan's secret would ever have been discovered had she not miscarried during the Papal procession or had she not become pregnant?
- If the Viking raid had not intervened to keep them apart, do you think Joan and Gerold could have had a happy life together?
- Why do you think medieval society considered it unnatural and a sin for women to educate themselves or be educated? It was also believed that education hampered a woman's ability to bear children. What purpose might that belief have served?
- Although the position of women in society has changed dramatically since the middle ages, do you feel there are similarities between the way women live in various societies today and the way they lived in society then?
- According to one reviewer, "Joan has the kind of vices—stubbornness and outspokenness, for example—that turn out to be virtues." Do you agree? If so, why? If not, why not?
- How important is it that Pope Joan actually existed? Are there lessons to be learned from this story whether it's true or not? What do you think those lessons are?