Pope Joan

Pope Joan

by Donna Woolfolk Cross
4.3 190

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Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross

"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.

For a thousand years her existence has been denied. She is the legend that will not die–-Pope Joan, the ninth-century woman who disguised herself as a man and rose to become the only female ever to sit on the throne of St. Peter. Now in this riveting novel, Cross paints a sweeping portrait of an unforgettable heroine who struggles against restrictions her soul cannot accept. 

Brilliant and talented, young Joan rebels against medieval social strictures forbidding women to learn. When her brother is brutally killed during a Viking attack, Joan takes up his cloak--and his identity--and enters the monastery of Fulda. As Brother John Anglicus, Joan distinguishes herself as a great scholar and healer. Eventually, she is drawn to Rome, where she becomes enmeshed in a dangerous web of love, passion, and politics. Triumphing over appalling odds, she finally attains the highest office in Christendom--wielding a power greater than any woman before or since. But such power always comes at a price . . . 

"Brings the savage ninth century vividly to life in all its alien richness. An enthralling, scholarly historical novel."
--Rebecca Fraser, Author of The Brontës

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307453198
Publisher: Crown/Archetype
Publication date: 06/09/2009
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 432
Sales rank: 7,383
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

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.

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Pope Joan 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 190 reviews.
Fluteymama More than 1 year ago
My husband and I both read this and found it very interesting. I enjoy historical books, and found this to have some good information, especially regarding the herbalism/healing of the time period. The theory is a unique one. I did read the author's notes prior to beginning the book, and that helped keep things in perspective while reading. Excellent discussion ideas, although you may not want to bring this up with your staunchly Catholic friends! The book was a quick read and I have recommended it to others. Take it as a theory, or straight fiction, the choice is yours, but it does give some thought-provoking material.
KrisPA More than 1 year ago
Considering that the novel was based on thorough research of a provocative idea--a female pope--I had expected the book to be more interesting. It is compelling reading with lots of action, but the main character, Joan, isn't all that interesting of a person. The side love story is rather boring and predictable. What I found most irritating was the lack of complex characters. People were either all bad or all good and the plot proceeded in an entirely predictable pattern: Joan was very intelligent, etc., etc., outshone her opponents, they got mad, they tried to get even and (usually) Joan and Gerold came out on top. The end seemed rushed to me and entirely anticlimatic. I finished the book and thought, that's it? That's the end? The author's note about the Catholic Church's subsequent cover up of Pope Joan and the evidence that remains that supports the idea of a female pope was much more interesting and intriguing than the novel itself. If you liked Pope Joan with its fast action and simplistic characters, you will love Ken Follett's two books based in the Middle-Ages.
fitz12383 More than 1 year ago
I've always been a big fan of historical fiction and Pope Joan definitely delivers. I mean, a story about a female pope who might have existed? Bring it on! Joan is a very strong character. She is brave and educated in an age that saw an educated woman as unnatural and sinful. She also has a vast knowledge of medieval medicine which comes in handy later in the novel. The plot is action-filled; this is a book that sucks you in and can't be put down until it is done. Author notes in the back of the book are very informative about the Dark Ages and the church in Joan's time. I became so interested in the period while reading this book that I found myself researching the legend of Pope Joan...researching for fun! What is that? One of the themes of the book is the idea of inner conflict, especially in regards to religious upbringing. Joan is the child of a pagan mother and a strict Christian father. She constantly struggles between faith and doubt and between her mind and heart. The novel raises plenty of questions about women in the church both in the Dark Ages and today and whether Pope Joan even existed in the first place. I highly recommend this book for all historical fiction fans and those who enjoy a novel with a strong female protagonist.
regina77004 More than 1 year ago
Based on the legend that a female served as Pope between Leo IV and Benedict the III, Cross explores the woman that may have been and how she came to sit on the throne. What Cross does an excellent job of doing is using historical fact, characters, and events to construct a plausible story for the reality of Joan. I also really enjoyed her presentation of the arguments for and against the existence of the female Pope. What kept me from giving the book a five is that the story drags a little in the middle and I was unable to emotionally connect to Joan after she heads to Fulda. I loved the child of Joan, however. I was completely unaware of this "event" and enjoyed learning about the possibility.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoy reading historical fiction especially during a period in history that we only can surmise some things. Learning about the herbalist and how they were thought to be witches was amazing. Women during the dark ages were only thought to be good at one thing...making men happy and having sons.
lv4dsgnrch More than 1 year ago
If you are at all interested in history, I would highly recommend this book! I read it in just a couple of days - couldn't put it down!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a very well written book. The author made you believe this really could have happened.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wonderful way to learn about history. Specifically, womens history. To see how they lived and what they went through. Love her writing style. Grabbed me from the first page.
KAV87 More than 1 year ago
The first few chapters were a bit tough to get through since she is constantly being battered, but stick with it and it becomes super interesting. The initial chapters prepared the reader for women's life in the dark ages. It is difficult to determine if it is a true story or not, the author suggests any papal history referring to a female pope was destroyed.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Couldn't put this great book down. I really enjoy strong intelligent characters whether fiction or reality --- but I really hope it's reality!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of the best historical fiction books I've ever read! Must read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is an interesting book that I read rather quickly. Truly a "page turner"! The time period in the book is always an interesting read so settling into it was easy. I read every word and enjoyed both the writer’s style and the content.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a wonderfully written novel suggested to me by a co worker who also loved the red tent as I did. There are some slow moving parts as the conclusion is painfully predictable. However, the concept and mystery surrounding the story itself over shadows any slight misteps.
rae4129 More than 1 year ago
I absolutely loved this book! And Donna Woolfolk Cross is amazing! This is just another reason why I distrust the whole organized religion system. Wiping away traces of the amazing women in history is unforgivable. Thank you, Donna, for bringing Pope Joan's story back! I can't wait to see the movie when it shows in Minneapolis!
Mermaid7seas More than 1 year ago
Donna Woolfolk Cross has researched and written a wonderful book, "Pope Joan", about the potentially true, and amazing legend of the one woman who became Pope of Rome in the 9th century. Disguised as a boy, this highly intelligent and determined young girl was given an education, impossible for any girls in those dark times, and went on, disguised as a man, to take the throne of St. Peter. This historical adventure/romance, written in an immensely readable style, and with marvelously descriptive images of medieval life and times, will entertain and inspire the reader, and will encourage girls and women to strive to attain and realize their true potential. Buy 2; one for you & one for someone else who may need to be inspired! This grand novel is a keeper! POPE JOAN is now an epic feature film, co-starring John Goodman and David Wenham! Adapted from the internationally best-selling novel by Donna Woolfolk Cross, the film is a sweeping historical drama based on the incredible life story of one of the most fascinating, extraordinary women in Western history--Pope Joan, a controversial figure of historical record who, boldly disguised as a man, rose to rule Christianity in the 9th century as the first and only woman to sit on the throne of St. Peter. The film will be featured at the 2010 Moondance International Film Festival, September 25, in Boulder, Colorado, and Ms. Cross will be in attendance to give a book-signing and a workshop on adapting the novel to the screen.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Truly a great historical novel about the first woman pope. Characters are well developed and the action is nonstop. It is also a very good movie. Don't miss this one!
Lindsey Mohar More than 1 year ago
Loved it
Mirella More than 1 year ago
Pope Joan is one of those remarkable novels that evokes images of a spectacular time and period. Pope Joan's achievements, in the face of social oppression against women punishable by death, are remarkable, even in today's world. How a impoverished child, abused, ignored, and trod upon, achieved the greatest throne in Christendom is truly a marvel. But that is not the only reason why this story is so endearing. It is the impeccable research and details into the Dark Ages that makes this novel resound with vibrancy. The novel is rich with intrigue, murderous plots, deadly secrets, adversity, religious zealots, and power mongers. Add to this, a secondary plot of love and loss, and you have a tale that is truly riveting. It is no wonder the novel will soon be made into a major motion picture.
Sensitivemuse More than 1 year ago
Joan is portrayed as a very strong and stubborn character. However because of her stubbornness it takes her farther ahead than any woman could have done during those times, and for that, I think it's a very admirable trait in her. It's because of this, she was able to overcome anything to do what she wanted to do the most; which was to learn. This is one of the most strongest female characters I have ever read so far and although she does have faults, she quickly overcomes them and does not relent. Even when she's tempted to leave with Gerold (her romance interest) she still remains steadfast to her duties to the the people in Rome. Although I found it frustrating at times, especially when things start to take a turn for the worst, it's still an admirable trait in the face of adversity. It's hard to feel any sympathy for any male characters in this novel. Although Gerold might be different but not as much as it all comes to the bottom line: the men in this novel prefer the women pregnant, barefoot, and in the kitchen. Their ignorance is so blatant you wanted to grind your teeth to stop yourself from wanting to jump in to wring their necks for thinking that way about women. However, it's a very realistic account, for I have no doubt that's how they thought that way (unfortunately some still do to this day). The plot in this book flowed perfectly and had it's good amount of climaxes and action. I was immediately sucked into the story from the beginning. I really did enjoy reading the parts on how Joan went through her journey to eventually becoming Pope. It was indeed a very nice story to read and I'd have to say it was like watching a very exciting adventure because you were always in fear of what would happen if she were to be discovered a woman. I really liked the inner politics within the Papal ranks. They're twice as devious and conniving than the royal courts I've read in previous books. The writing in this book is historically accurate in my opinion, as it gives you a good look and feel as to how it felt like to live back then in this time period. The only criticism I have is there are a lot of latin religious terminology (especially areas of the religious buildings and ranks of the papacy in Rome) which were hard to get through. I found myself looking a lot of the words up as to what this certain word referred to, and as to what was this rank in the papacy. A glossary would have helped as I had no prior knowledge in this aspect in history. The Author's Note however, was indeed informative and a very interesting read. Overall a great novel about a strong woman who faced the odds to do what she loved to do: read and learn. I recommend this book, it's a wonderful read. You may even be tempted to read some background information on Pope Joan as I did (I went straight for Wikipedia the moment I finished the book)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A very interesting, historical and compelling book. I looked forward to every moment I could read it. Great for book clubs or to circulate amongst family and friends. I think it added to the books appeal that it is fiction.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
so i basically had to read this book for sophomore english honors, and at first i thought this book was going to be boring and pointless. But once i read on into it, it was fascinating. this book moved me because i'm a lady, and it just gives me more confidence in myself from joan and her hunger for what she wants :D
tmccabe More than 1 year ago
This is now my new favorite book. This book has romance, adventure, mystery, historical aspects and the story is fascinating! The story of Joan was very empowering for me as a woman, it touched me more deeply than written words can express. I can't wait to read it again and go see the upcoming movie premiering this October/November. Absolutely a 5 star read!
nke More than 1 year ago
Pope Joan is a wonderful story that is thought provoking and a page turner. Once you get to a mid way point in the story, it is difficult to stop reading. The characters were wonderful and it was sad to leave them at the end of the book. Totally enjoyable.
GigiAM More than 1 year ago
This is not a book I would have ever picked up. Our book club chose to read it and I loved it. We gave it an overall 5 stars. Was it true? We had mixed reviews on this, but we all said it could have been. A definite keeper for my library. I would highly recommend it.
jazzboss More than 1 year ago
I found the story of the only female pope facinating. I have been Catholic all of my life , and was not aware of this remarkable story. I could not put the book dowwn once I started it. The historical research was very understandable. The story was written in a novel type of dialouge. Over all I would highly recomend this book.