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Illuminations: A Novel of Hildegard von…
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Illuminations: A Novel of Hildegard von Bingen (edició 2012)

de Mary Sharratt

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A novel based on the true story of Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179), who was offered by her parents as a tithe to the Church as a young child and who triumphed to become a powerful abbess, composer, prophet and polymath.
Membre:newkirm
Títol:Illuminations: A Novel of Hildegard von Bingen
Autors:Mary Sharratt
Informació:Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Kindle Edition, 294 pages
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Valoració:****
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Illuminations: A Novel of Hildegard von Bingen de Mary Sharratt

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A historical novel of the middle ages centered on a women who lived an extraordinary life, Hildegard von Bingen. The author captures the essence of the age and the wonders of an abbess who was a composer of music and a healer. Her mystic visions are presented alongside her less that risk averse behavior in a fascinating age. ( )
  jwhenderson | Jul 19, 2023 |
Young Hildegard was the tenth child of an aristocratic family. While her father and two oldest brothers are away fighting in the Crusades for literally decades, Hildegard’s mother starts arranging marriages for her daughters. Hildegard has had strange visions all her life so her mom decides that she will be the family’s gift to the Church. She arranges for Hildegard to accompany Jutta, a higher-ranking noble who wants to become an anchorite at the monastery at Disibodenberg in Germany. Hildegard is only eight years old and doesn’t understand exactly what her future holds.

When the two girls arrive at the monastery, the monks hold a service for the dead to symbolize their passage from the world of the flesh and wall them into two tiny cells that they share. One of the rooms is a courtyard open to the sky and the other has a screen for food to pass through and for conversation. But the girls are never allowed to leave and are expected to live a life of religious prayer and contemplation. Hildegard has always loved the woods and the outdoors and she’s desperate to find a way out. She does feel called to serve God but she knows this is not her path.

I first became interested in Hildegard von Bingen (St. Hildegard) when author Clemency Burton-Hill mentioned her as a composer in Year of Wonder. Ms. Burton-Hill included a brief biography but I was curious to know more. I was thrilled to find this work of historical fiction, although I did wonder how much was history and how much was fiction. The author addresses that at the end. The essential facts are all correct although there is some discrepancy among the source material regarding the age when Hildegard entered the monastery.

The Hildegard in these pages was fascinating. She was a strategist but she also had a heart to care for others. She was “only” a woman but she was a woman with connections and she wasn’t afraid to use them. As she grew older, she called out hypocrisy and inhumane practices. God was always female in her visions. She was an avid learner and read through any books the monks would give her. She trained to be a healer and she became a composer whose work is still fairly widely performed. The breadth of her accomplishments would be remarkable even today; they were almost unfathomable in the twelfth century.

The novel is on the shorter side, at 294 pages in my e-book. I wish the author had spent a bit more time on the final years of Hildegard’s life. The bulk of the story is devoted to her time as an anchorite but I would have liked to read more about her time in the wider world.

If you’re curious, the book is only “religious” in the sense that the author based it on a religious figure. I certainly didn’t feel that there was any sort of Christian agenda.

I highly recommend this if you’re interested in historical fiction about extraordinary women. ( )
  JG_IntrovertedReader | Sep 12, 2021 |
Once again, historical fiction has led me to a person and a subject I otherwise knew nothing about. I really had no idea that there was such a thing as anchorages and women (nuns) who became anchorites. These women willingly gave themselves to a monastery to be literally walled in, never seeing the outside world, for the rest of their days. In Illuminations, Hildegard von Bingen is forced to enter an anchorage with a girl (Jutta) who is perceived as the holiest of holy. However, her reasons for committing herself to this fate were brought on by a dark secret. Hildegard spends 30 years there with Jutta, watching her slowly waste away. Only after her death is she finally able to break free.

Having had visions since an early age that she thought meant she was wicked, or that there was something wrong with her, Hildegard came to realize in her long isolation that these were indeed visions of the divine. Once she was given her freedom, she was able to speak out about her visions and write about them. With her fellow sisters, who were also oblates of the anchorage, she works for those in monastic life to know love, the love of God, not to live in cruelty such as the life inside an anchorage most surely was.

Hildegard von Bingen became a saint. Her life and work still inspires people today. She had very diverse and complex ideas and many have viewed her as a religious reformer. I am so glad that I was able to learn about this woman. Mary Sharratt has brought to life in great historical detail a story that should be read by all. I cannot express how much I recommend this book. ( )
  TheTrueBookAddict | Mar 22, 2020 |
I deeply enjoyed this work of historical fiction, which illuminated (ha!) the life of mystic saint Hildegard. One of the most intriguing figures in the history of the Christian church, Hildegard was a shining voice who has only recently received full recognition for her character and her work. Sharratt's novel paints a deeply passionate and deeply human woman who courageously lived her faith and led others to do the same.

For a similar approach, see also Frederick Buechner's [b:Godric|76802|Godric|Frederick Buechner|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1389043046s/76802.jpg|74283] and (better, but different) [b:Brendan|76801|Brendan|Frederick Buechner|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1388599818s/76801.jpg|74282]. ( )
  patl | Feb 18, 2019 |
It's a kind of miracle that I even began Illuminations, a fictionalized biography of Hildegard of Bingen, by Sharratt given how I was feeling about Ecstasy. But I had just finished a lecture about Hildegard and Bernard of Clairvaux, the two greatest Christian mystics of the 12th century, I was anxious to explore more about her.

Whether the subject was less conducive to such emotional excess, or because it was an audiobook where the narrator -- who did a stellar job, btw -- was able to soft-pedal the histrionics, I found this book much easier to like. I do wish I'd chosen an actual biography, but this one kept me reading, so it wasn't a loss.

Hildegarde's life was strange even by 12th century standards. She was given at the age of eight as an oblate to Jutta von Sponheim, an anchorite at the monastery of Saint Disibod in Germany. Jutta and Hildegard were literally walled up in two small rooms for thirty years. On Jutta's death, Hildegarde chose not to continue as an anchorite, a life she hadn't chosen. Eventually she went on to found the Benedictine convent at Rupertsberg.

Again, I found Sharrat's prose over-wrought, though not to the same extent as in Ecstasy. (At least there were no sex scenes!) but her invention of drama for the sake of drama bothered me. She portrays Jutta as having been raped by her own brother in an attempt to explain away Jutta's masochistic piety. She comes perilously close to suggesting that Hildegard's feelings for one of her fellow nuns, Richardis von Stade, had a sexual component. Now possibly both things are true, I don't know, but, just as I felt Alma Mahler's story was interesting enough without all the hand-wringing and spiritual sexuality, I think I'd rather have known more about the visions, about Hildegarde's writings, and her music than Sharratt's "psychological insights." ( )
  Tracy_Rowan | Jul 9, 2018 |
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Prologue: The most ancient and enduring power of women is prophecy, my gift and my curse.
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A novel based on the true story of Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179), who was offered by her parents as a tithe to the Church as a young child and who triumphed to become a powerful abbess, composer, prophet and polymath.

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