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Memoirs of a Medieval Woman: The Life and Times of Margery Kempe
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Memoirs of a Medieval Woman: The Life and Times of Margery Kempe

3.69  ·  Rating Details ·  176 Ratings  ·  21 Reviews
For history and biography lovers, the 15th-century life and travels of the extraordinary Margery Kempe, who left her family to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
Paperback, 288 pages
Published January 19th 1983 by Harper Perennial (first published 1964)
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Margery Kempe was an extraordinary 15th century woman who traveled from England to Jerusalem (and a number of spots in between). She was convinced she had been chosen by God to be his servant, and, though married with 14 (!) children, she undertook to take His message to the faithful. More importantly to her, she had a “secret sin” in her early life, which she felt she could only expunge by this pilgrimage.

Collis used Kempe’s own autobiography – the first ever written in English. (She was illit
John David
Oct 12, 2010 John David rated it it was amazing
Louise Collis' book stands of the interesting tradition of "books that are about books." While Kempe (c. 1373 - 1438) wrote what is quite possibly the first autobiography in the English language - and quite a fascinating book in its own right - Collis' re-telling of the story adds the occasionally much-needed and very helpful narrative voice of a twentieth-century historian. At the same time, her voice is never intrusive, always letting Margery's story shine through any additional insight she mi ...more
Rachel Terry
Sep 18, 2012 Rachel Terry rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, memoir
If it weren't for Louise Collis's illuminating historical explanations, it might be difficult to make heads or tails of Margery Kempe, a medieval woman so set on sainthood that she dictated her autobiography for future followers. And I'm so glad she did. She's a riot, and her interactions with fellow Christian pilgrims, with her hen-pecked husband, and with the clergy give us precious insights into medieval life. Margery Kempe would have fit in perfectly with Chaucer's pilgrims. In fact, she wou ...more
Apr 10, 2009 Louise rated it liked it
Shelves: biographies
Very, very interesting!

From back cover:

"This unique biography tells the story of an extraordinary fifteenth-century woman who journeyed all over Europe from England to the Holy Land. A vigorous and passionate woman, Margery Kempe was married and had fourteen children when she deserted her family to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to expiate a "secret sin" in her early life. Along the way she meets many famous prelates and dignitaries, gets into all sorts of scrapes, and survives a feverish voyage
Jul 19, 2008 Jen rated it it was amazing
This was a fascinating biographical of a woman who would was attempting to become a saint. It shows the zealot moment into hysteria of the martyrdom of early Christians. How they were obsessed with the pain and blood of the Crucifiction of JC, the tales of woe of the early saints but more importantly - the charlatism of those out to make a profit on so-called relics. One is left to wonder ... what is real in the church at all!

It was definitely a book to read - I want to read the original work o
Nov 02, 2010 Aimee rated it it was amazing
I read this book about 12 or so years ago. It was an amazing look at the life of a remarkable (and remarkably odd) woman. I was fascinated at how different the medieval mindset is from that of today -- and it goes way beyond the technology. :) Cool book.
Mar 21, 2008 Kathy rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: people interested in women's issues, religious history
Shelves: nonfiction
This book was interesting in small doses. It is based on the account of an actual woman who lived in England in the 1400s. As was apparently fashionable in the day, she was flamboyantly devout and made many pilgrimages, including to Rome, Jerusalem and parts of Spain. She would have fit right in with the crowd from the Canterbury tales.

Her tale puts some misconceptions about history on their heads. She began her travels fairly late in life, after having raised 14 children. Her husband was uninte
This was definitely an interesting read. Margery Kempe is one of the first women to tell her own life story in her own words, and it was quite a life, to boot.

Alternately considered an extremely holy woman or a total nutcase (depending on who you asked), Margery popped out 14 kids and then abandoned them to travel the world on pilgrimages to the Holy Land and many holy sites all over Europe (etc.). She had several brushes with the Church, having to defend her actions in ecclesiastical court on m
Dec 29, 2010 CJ rated it it was ok
A summarization of the memoirs of Margery Kempe of Lynn, England. She was a very ambition and trying woman determined to achieve sainthood in the 1400s.

The author did a nice job of summarizing the rambling book dictated by Margary to two priests near the end of her life. She also added background information as to what else was going on at the time.
Oct 05, 2014 Marcy added it
truly fascinating look at a medieval woman who was eccentric and advanced for her time. she abandoned home and family to travel from england to israel and was focused on her spiritual journey more than history or the politics of the time. --can't blame her for that. women didn't have much play or say in either during her day.
Oct 24, 2015 Morgane rated it really liked it
Margery Kempe, what a nut. This is a great look into medieval life, and how human and relatable everyone was, despite our stereotypes of that era. Collis's narration was honest and intrusive, with just enough personality to keep it lively. If you're at all interested in medieval Europe, this is a book worth reading.
Feb 20, 2015 Alicia rated it it was ok
An excellent look at life for fifteenth-century English pilgrims. Unfortunately, the main subject of the book, Margery Kempe, was not an enjoyable topic. She was forever making a fuss and pissing people off. She claimed to be holy and had visions of God, but she really sounds like an attention whore. It was interesting, but it dragged at times. The bulk of at least four chapters can be summarized as such: Margery went here, made a spectacle of herself, and annoyed the crap out of everyone. She w ...more
Dana Stabenow
A great portrait of the times, but it would be very easy to construct a crime fiction novel around the murder of Margery Kempe. Every single one of her fellow travelers would be suspect, and who could blame them.
May 27, 2008 MET rated it it was amazing
We all need a hero!
David Morton
Aug 15, 2013 David Morton rated it liked it
Fascinating account of an extraordinary woman of the Middle Ages, 14 children, and who undertook pilgrimages to the Holy Lands and other places in Europein the early 1400s. The book is full of colourful detail, not only of Margery Kempe, but of the period and the circumstances of her travels, life as a middle class woman. Despite being illiterate, Kempe dictated her memoirs to a scribe and was later transcribed by a priest who fixed much of the grammatical and spelling errors. Some claim it as t ...more
Kylin Larsson
This is the kind of book I picked up and put down over the course of a year and a half. Once I really got into it, I found it hard to put down. The author Louise Collis narrates the memoirs of Margery Kempe, woman who convinced herself that she was a saint--or at least that she deserved the comforts and respect that a saint deserved. Margery's story begins *after* she delivery her 14th child and is stricken with vision-inducing depression. When she is cured, she begins the ever-increasing pursui ...more
Sep 16, 2008 Emily rated it it was ok
The book is alright. There's nothing terribly inaccurate about it. I was a bit disappointed. It pretty much just paraphrases Kempe's spiritual biography with a few outside references to give a bit of historical context. Kempe's own voice (as mediated as it is) is so delightful to read that I got a bit sad revisiting her life without hearing it in her words.

One nice moment though, is at the beginning Collis makes the argument that Kempe's illiteracy is abnormal for a woman of her status. It's mo
May 23, 2016 Caitlin rated it it was ok
Margery Kempe was cray-cray.
Tracy Baker
Dec 09, 2014 Tracy Baker rated it it was ok
This was tough to get through. I enjoyed the historical aspect during the travelogue sequences but the rest was very repetitive and left me bogged down in the minutia.
Apr 05, 2012 Rhonda rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed the book however, I wish it had more information from her book. This seemed more of a general overview and I would like to read her actual memoir.
Jul 02, 2012 Siggie rated it liked it
A bit of a tough read at times but a fascinating look at how much religion dictated every aspect of life.
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