Skirting Heresy: The Life and Times of Margery Kempe

Skirting Heresy: The Life and Times of Margery Kempe

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by Elizabeth MacDonald
     
 

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It was perhaps England’s darkest hour. The roots of the Protestant Reformation were in place, although it would be another century before Martin Luther and King Henry VIII upended Catholicism. It was a time when unauthorized preaching was against the law, and there was a death penalty in place to stop heresy; even Catholic priests were being burned

Overview


It was perhaps England’s darkest hour. The roots of the Protestant Reformation were in place, although it would be another century before Martin Luther and King Henry VIII upended Catholicism. It was a time when unauthorized preaching was against the law, and there was a death penalty in place to stop heresy; even Catholic priests were being burned alive.

Margery Kempe was born into this world. She dared to follow her truth, and the calling she knew came from Jesus Christ himself. But she paid mightily for it, and she was repeatedly arrested, put on trial, even threatened with death. Kempe’s only lifeline was her wit, determination, and a few influential friends who believed in her cause.

You will be riveted by this tale of a woman who is credited with dictating the first autobiography in English, The Book of Margery Kempe. It is an account of a rare and courageous woman, a saint of the Anglican church, who dared stand up for what she believed in.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"MacDonald’s prose is elegant and clear throughout in this engaging examination of the historical figure Margery Kempe." — Kirkus Reviews

“A work of scholarship and the imagination.” — Bloomberg News

“A fascinating work. The trials, pilgrimages, weeping, and relentless uproar that surrounded Kempe are all very much brought to life by MacDonald, a gifted writer and story-teller. All very believable, and even inspiring. If you want a very different summer read, quick and engaging, about someone important, about something important, you should pick up Skirting Heresy.” — National Review

“Elizabeth MacDonald has done us a genuine service in recovering and translating into a modern, page-turning narrative this very unusual story of a world which was rent by conflicts very like those we face today.” — Aleteia

"Elizabeth MacDonald vividly brings to life both the world of medieval England and even more impressively, the heroic Margery Kempe, whose insights and courage speak to the modern world. This book will absorb and enlighten you." —Steve Forbes, editor, Forbes magazine

“Elizabeth MacDonald likely would hate being compared to a saint, but her writing here proves once again, her own inherent goodness. Few journalists reach such an understanding in life. Then again, few journalists come close to what my friend 'Lizzy' has done in life, and the subjects she tackles routinely in life.... Quite a book. Quite a subject. Quite an author.” —Neil Cavuto, host of Cavuto and Your World With Neil Cavuto

"Elizabeth MacDonald is a gifted reporter — her ability to weave passion and truth together shines in Skirting Heresy. MacDonald’s account of Margery Kempe’s life is a compelling must-read story for religious readers and history buffs alike.” — Greta Van Susteren, host of On the Record with Greta Van Susteren

“One of the best historical narratives I’ve read in a long time. Elizabeth MacDonald has skillfully delivered a gripping, bold new take on a captivating historical figure, Margery Kempe, a story that shows what was happening in Catholic England before Joan of Arc was executed.” —Larry Kudlow, anchor, CNBC

“Elizabeth MacDonald’s story about Margery Kempe is an amazing historical perspective of a fascinating character that reads like a mystery you can’t put down, full of passion and intrigue. I loved learning more about Margery—a strong medieval woman of faith taking a stand for what she believed in against all odds.”
Gretchen Carlson, host of The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson

"Elizabeth MacDonald portrays Kempe as a feminist before her time. Writing in a clear, no-nonsense style, MacDonald, a business reporter, weaves medieval history with material from Kempe's memoir, dictated in approximately 1436. This memoir, The Book of Margery Kempe, is considered the first English autobiography. That it was fashioned by a woman is another first. ...At this time, women were not allowed to preach the Gospel and couldn't travel without men. Yet Kempe managed to do both. She made several pilgrimages and traveled to the Holy Land. She chastised her neighbors' wrongdoings as well as that of town and church leaders. If she saw fault with the actions of mayors, priests and bishops, she let them know about it. She was never one to keep her thoughts to herself, and as seen in this entertaining biography, that was a good thing."—Diane Scharper, National Catholic Reporter

An engrossing and important revival of a timeless life story, of an heroic woman, Margery Kempe. MacDonald, like her subject, is a truth teller in the modern sense, ever eager to shine a light on what needs to be known.”— RealClearMarkets

National Review

“A fascinating work. The trials, pilgrimages, weeping, and relentless uproar that surrounded Kempe are all very much brought to life by MacDonald, a gifted writer and story-teller. All very believable, and even inspiring. If you want a very different summer read, quick and engaging, about someone important, about something important, you should pick up Skirting Heresy.”
Bloomberg News

“A work of scholarship and the imagination.”
Aleteia

“Elizabeth MacDonald has done us a genuine service in recovering and translating into a modern, page-turning narrative this very unusual story of a world which was rent by conflicts very like those we face today.”
Library Journal
10/01/2014
Margery Kempe (1373–1438) was neither a saint nor a madwoman. However, she was eccentric, devout, and known for fits of public weeping. Viewed with skepticism by the contemporary English Church, she survived accusations of heresy to negotiate celibacy within her marriage. She later became known for her pilgrimages to Jerusalem, Rome, and Compostela, in addition to her meeting with anchoress and mystic Julian of Norwich. MacDonald (God's Story) has written Kempe's story in a manner that somewhat uneasily mixes biography with fiction; supplying dialog, motive, and scenes. The result has some charm but will ultimately frustrate the nonexpert. While there is a strong need for a richly contextualized biography of this fascinating woman, this is not quite it. VERDICT This capable and compelling introduction to one of the most intriguing women of the Middle Ages is apt to be superseded by a more exacting account.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781616367169
Publisher:
Franciscan Media
Publication date:
06/23/2014
Pages:
192
Sales rank:
883,826
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.70(d)

Meet the Author


Elizabeth MacDonald is an editor and on-air personality at the FOX Business Network as well as on FOX News and has won more than a dozen journalism awards. She has covered business news for two-and-a-half decades, including at the Wall Street Journal and as an editor at Forbes magazine, where she created the World’s Most Powerful Women annual ranking. MacDonald has spent time working with Mother Teresa’s community in Calcutta, volunteering at an AIDS clinic in Harlem, and engaged in other ministries of outreach in the New York metropolitan area.

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Skirting Heresy: The Life and Times of Margery Kempe 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
KEVINCANTWELL More than 1 year ago
I agree, this book is definitely Pulitzer Prize literature, it's the best historical novel I've ever read. I couldn't stop reading it and now I can't get it out of my head. I find myself going over and over scenes while driving or walking. It's because this book made me cry and laugh out loud at so many points through out reading it, I'm telling you I never had that experience before. I agree Skirting Heresy ranks right up there with the best of the literary classics. It's like a Gore Vidal novel or a Peter Ackroyd novel in that it mixes history with fiction. I've got a lot of historians and know alot of history teachers, they say the facts are dead right, that Skirting Heresy is wonderfully, historically accurate. Mac Donald really is a brilliant, profoundly moving writer, the writing is majestic and blessedly short, she uses just the right word choices to deliver an emotional punch. It was so gripping, riveting and yet elegant and moving, I cried. It really is like a new Chaucer Canterbury tales wrapped in a work of history. MacDonald did us a favor showing us in narrative form the events in England, I never knew what happened there before Joan of Arc was killed. I didn't know seven Catholic priests and friars were burnt alive. I didn't know this was when England had its first heresy movement, the Lollards. But I agree too this book is like an undiscovered Chaucer work. but thoughtful, too, like a Chekhov novel. I loved how MacDonald wrote about Margery's constant fights with other pilgrims, friars and bishops, or her neighbors, they were laugh out loud funny, better than any movie I've seen. I can't get out of my head how MacDonald wrote the really nasty, ugly fight between Archbishop Thomas Arundel and his men on how they decided to get a death penalty enacted to wipe out Lollard heretics. MacDonald should be nominated for a Pulitzer, she did us a favor. Plus did you ever read a better sermon than the one Elizabeth Mac Donald wrote for the first martyr of the Protestant Reformation, William Sawtrey? Read that chapter and tell me you don't cry, or cry over the letter Elizabeth wrote for Margery's husband's, the letter she imagined Margery's husband wrote her. This book is the best argument too that the Catholic Church really should recognize Margery as the patron saint of gossip. Buy this book now, it's the best of the year. I really can't stop thinking about it or going over it in my head.
MichaelArcher More than 1 year ago
An instant classic, I couldn't put this book down or get it out of my head, I couldn't stop reading it. MacDonald has created Pulitzer Prize literature, it ranks right up there with the best of literary classics. I read it in two days. Elizabeth MacDonald ranks right up there with David McCullough or Hilary Mantel as one of the greatest writers of our time. The writing is just so elegant and gorgeous, it reads like a Cheever novel wrapped in a work of history wrapped in a suspense novel. I've read Margery Kempe books, but this is the very first time ever Margery's story is put in its proper historical context, as an historical narrative, what exactly was going on around Margery in England, one of its darkest and little known periods in history. The latter chapters read just as hilarious as Chaucer's Canterbury tales. Elizabeth's original, imaginative dialogue writing of Margery's constant fights with fellow pilgrims, and the bishops & clerics frustration and debates over what to do about Margery read just like the funniest movie scenes you ever saw. Just the thrilling, brilliantly written chapter alone on the heated, back and forth debate between Archbishop Thomas Arundel and his clerics on how to get rid of Lollard heretics, and the fact that Elizabeth imagined how they finally shockingly came to their decision, a death penalty that became England's first burning at the stake in its history, is Pulitzer material. This is better than a Phillipa Gregory novel. Ignore the ignorant naysayers on this site--proof of Elizabeth's 'Margery is the patron saint of gossip' argument that jealousy still exists! Buy this book now, it's the best of the year. A book by one of the country's best and most gifted business journalists, who now ranks right up there as one of our greatest historical novelists. Kudos, Elizabeth, write more books!
MaryErena More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed reading about the Historical facts but to be honest after awhile, Margery got on my nerves with all her crying and pilgrimages. I understand she felt she had this calling and I commend her for following her heart. I did share some of the "rules" Margery and others had to follow during that period that the Church felt was necessary for one's redemption. I was glad to be done with the book and i would not recommend this read.