Reading and Such

I’ve read two stellar books in the last week and I just had to share! Funny enough, both carry the theme of unimaginably oppressed women, however, they are nothing alike.

The first book I read was “Pope Joan” by Donna Woolfolk Cross and was fascinating. Here’s a synopsis:

For a thousand years, her existence has been denied. She is the legend that will not die–Pope Joan, a controversial figure of historical record who, 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. In this riveting novel, Donna Woolfolk Cross paints a sweeping portrait of a heroine whose strength of vision led her to defy the social restrictions of her day.

Brilliant and talented, young Joan rebels against medieval laws forbidding women to learn. When her older brother is brutally killed during a Viking attack, Joan takes up his identity and enters the monastery of Fulda, where she is initiated into the brotherhood in his place. 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 throne in Christendom, wielding a power greater than any woman before or since.

But such power always comes at a price…

Pope Joan is a sweeping historical drama set against the turbulent events of the 9th century — the Saracen sack of St. Peter’s, the famous fire in the Borgo that destroyed over three-quarters of the Vatican, the Battle of Fontenoy, arguably the bloodiest and most terrible of medieval conflicts. This masterwork of suspense and passion brings the Dark Ages to life in all their brutal splendor and shares the dramatic story of an unforgettable woman who struggles against restrictions her soul cannot accept.

They made a movie of it in 2009 and yesterday after church I decided to see if I could find it on On Demand. Guess what! I did!! In fact, it was getting ready to come on so I hit record. I thought it was kind of funny that they were showing it twice, back to back.

Later in the day Todd and I decided to watch it. The movie did a great job of sticking close to the book. I mean, there were some changes here and there, but overall it was very good. Except…

… it was actually a two part movie and I only taped the first half. NOOOooo… So we checked the menu again and found out it will be shown again in March. IN MARCH! Poor Todd. At least I know how it ends. But he has to wait two more weeks to find out.

The second book I read this past week was A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. And when I say “this past week” what I really mean is today. I started it this morning. I finished it this afternoon. It was a glorious Monday holiday. The synopsis:

A Thousand Splendid Suns is a breathtaking story set against the volatile events of Afghanistan’s last thirty years—from the Soviet invasion to the reign of the Taliban to the post-Taliban rebuilding—that puts the violence, fear, hope, and faith of this country in intimate, human terms. It is a tale of two generations of characters brought jarringly together by the tragic sweep of war, where personal lives—the struggle to survive, raise a family, find happiness—are inextricable from the history playing out around them.

Propelled by the same storytelling instinct that made The Kite Runner a beloved classic, A Thousand Splendid Suns is at once a remarkable chronicle of three decades of Afghan history and a deeply moving account of family and friendship. It is a striking, heart-wrenching novel of an unforgiving time, an unlikely friendship, and an indestructible love—a stunning accomplishment.

I find it very interesting that these two books, set over a thousand years apart and in such different cultures, were remarkably similar. Women regarded as worthless, especially if they could not conceive a son. Women considered unnatural and heretical if they could think for themselves. Religion twisted and used as ammunition against the fairer sex. Both books raised my ire at the injustice of it all and tugged at my heartstrings for these poor victims of their culture and era.

I think I need a fluffy, mindless romance now…


  1. gretchen on February 20, 2012 at 9:56 pm

    Loved both of those books, but you’re right–broccoli books. Good for flexing the intellect. At this point in the year, I need ice cream books. Tasty and easy. Been a long time since I picked up Pope Joan. I remember liking it quite a bit.

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