Monday, November 11, 2013

HF Virtual Book Tours: Illuminations: A Novel of Hildegard von Bingen by Mary Sharratt

Title: Illuminations: A Novel of Hildegard von Bingen
Author: Mary Sharratt
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publish Date: October 9, 2012 (Paperback: October 15, 2013)
Source: HF Virtual Book Tours

Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You're a historical fiction fan.
What's the Story?:

From "Illuminations chronicles the life of Hildegard von Bingen (1098–1179), who was tithed to the church at the age of eight and expected to live out her days in silent submission as the handmaiden of a renowned but disturbed young nun, Jutta von Sponheim. Instead, Hildegard rejected Jutta’s masochistic piety and found comfort and grace in studying books, growing herbs, and rejoicing in her own secret visions of the divine. When Jutta died some three decades later, Hildegard broke out of her prison with the heavenly calling to speak and write about her visions and to liberate her sisters and herself from the soul-destroying anchorage."

My Two Cents:

"Illuminations" is the fascinating story of Hildegard von Bingen, who became a very fascinating saint in the Catholic church. I didn't know much about her at all before this book despite growing up Catholic but this book definitely showed me why people today are still so fascinated by her life and her story. One thing that I always appreciate about historical fiction is its ability to teach me something new. This book introduced me to an amazing historical figure that I definitely want to know more about now! This is a great historical fiction book pick for anyone looking for a truly intriguing character.

I felt bad for Hildegard through much of the beginning of this book. Because she becomes a nun so that she can be a handmaiden to a young (and oh so crazy) noblewoman, she doesn't have a lot of free will. Her life is seemingly inextricably tied to Jutta, a woman who takes her religious life to the extreme (read: self-mortification) and forces Hildegard to follow that very same path. Luckily Hildegard is resilient and is able to make a good life for herself after Jutta passes away. I really loved reading about Hildegard. She had a really fascinating life even if it was not really one of her choosing.

And this book also has some magical realism thrown in for good measure. Hildegard has many visions and after Jutta dies, she seems to become more free to talk about what she says. She even writes about some of the things that she witnesses. It is truly fascinating!

I did find myself wishing that the time periods in the book were a little more clear cut. I found a couple section confusing since so much time had passed in between the previous section and the current section. However, this mattered little as the subject matter was so great!

Overall, I really enjoyed this book!

Follow the Rest of the Tour:

Monday, October 14
Review & Giveaway at The Maiden’s Court
Feature & Giveaway at Passages to the Past
Tuesday, October 15
Review at Plum Creek Peddler
Interview & Giveaway at Unabridged Chick
Wednesday, October 16
Review at Bitches with Books
Thursday, October 17
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Review & Giveaway at A Bookish Libraria
Friday, October 18
Interview at Flashlight Commentary
Monday, October 21
Review at Book of Secrets
Tuesday, October 22
Review at The Most Happy Reader
Review & Giveaway at Book Lovers Paradise
Wednesday, October 23
Review at Books, Belles and Beaux
Review & Giveaway at Confessions of an Avid Reader
Thursday, October 24
Review at Just One More Chapter
Guest Post at Books, Belles and Beaux
Friday, October 25
Interview & Giveaway at Just One More Chapter
Monday, October 28
Review at Bloggin’ ’bout Books
Tuesday, October 29
Review at Griperang’s Bookmarks
Wednesday, October 30
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews
Friday, November 1
Review at Jorie Loves a Story
Review & Giveaway at Broken Teepee
Monday, November 4
Guest Post & Giveaway at HF Book Muse – News
Tuesday, November 5
Guest Post & Giveaway at The True Book Addict
Interview at Erika Mailman Blog
Wednesday, November 6
Review at CelticLady’s Reviews
Review at The True Book Addict
Thursday, November 7
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!
Friday, November 8
Review at History and Women
Monday, November 11
Review at A Bookish Affair
Review & Giveaway at Closed the Cover
Tuesday, November 12
Review & Giveaway at vvb32 Reads
Guest Post & Giveaway at A Bookish Affair
Wednesday, November 13
Review at The Musings of ALMYBNENR
Thursday, November 14
Review at So Many Books, So Little Time
Review at Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews
Feature & Giveaway at Book-alicious Mama
Friday, November 15
Review at Books in the Burbs
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  1. I read this, too. Here's what I thought.

    ILLUMINATIONS tells the story of Hildegard von Bingen, recognized as a saint by the Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches and as a prophet by the Lutheran Church.

    Hildegard's divine visions were likely the reason her mother gave her to a Catholic monastery when she was a child, where she was forced into a tomb-like existence for 30 years. Her visions continued her entire life. When she was sure they came from God, she saw the importance of writing a book about them. Further synopsis is in the review above.

    ILLUMINATIONS is based on documented fact, but it is not a biography. Here, Hildegard's story is told as a novel. In so doing, Sharratt interjects Hildegard's thoughts, psychological insights, and dialog and keeps the reader's interest more than a biography would. For readers like me, that makes this book more readable, and that is why I rate the book so highly.

    Like all good novels that are based on fact, ILLUMINATIONS will have you needing to know exactly what really happened and what is Sharratt's fiction. She talks about this in the "Afterward," which I thought should have begun the book rather than ended it.

    I wondered most about Hildegard's special relationship with Sister Richardis. So I did some digging, searching the Internet. And that made me want to learn even more, and that made me want to search Netflix. Sure enough, they have a couple DVDs about Hildegard, and now one of them is on its way to me.

    1. Whoa! I'm going to have to look up the DVDs. Which one are you getting?

      This is what I love about historical fiction; there always seems to be wormholes to go through once you learn about a fascinating figure!

  2. I was on this tour too. I gave it a "3" b/c I found some of the repetitious descriptions really annoying and the writing got a little choppy sometimes although it was really good for the most part. Overall, it was a good book. I didn't know anything about Hildegard before reading it so from that angle it was really interesting!
    Ashley (Closed the Cover)


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