Pope Joan
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Pope Joan

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4.05 of 5 stars 4.05  ·  rating details  ·  39,597 ratings  ·  3,298 reviews
Pope Joan: A Novel, by Cross, Donna Woolfolk
Paperback, 422 pages
Published June 9th 2009 by Ballantine Books (NY) (first published 1996)
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Misfit
Interesting take on the legend, but has some flaws. I think I'm going to be another one in the minority here. I found the idea of a woman disguised as a man seated on the papal throne to be an interesting legend and the author did a decent job with it. I appreciated the research the author took on the period and customs of the times, which is not an easy task as so much is unknown about the dark ages.

The problem I had is the incredible coincidences throughout the book where Joan is just saved i...more
Powersamurai
About the only female pope back in the 9th century. The Catholic Church today treats Pope Joan as legend created by the Protestants, but with over 500 documents to prove she did exist, it is but another bureaucratic cover-up.
A woman from Frankish lands with Saxon and English heritage in the 9th century going out there and doing it for herself. It is a thinking person's book. Lots of Latin in there, of course, because the language used in the church then was Latin. But don't let that stop you fro...more
Sammy
Before I started reading this book I gave a brief summary to some of my friends who saw that I had just bought it and were wondering about it. That got us into a heated discussion about how completely outrageous it is for a woman to dress up as a man. How it's pretty much impossible to get away with it seeing as you'll always end up in some sort of situation where you have to reveal yourself for what you really are.

That discussion ended up shading me slightly when I began to read, thinking, "Rea...more
Chrissie
NO SPOILERS!!!

In conclusion, having completed this novel, having struggled through to the end, I can say I did not like it. I didn't like it from the start to the end. When I voice this opinion, I am obviously in the minority. I do appreciate that the author concluded with an informative author's note, which supports her belief that Pope Joan did exist, between the acknowledged Pope Leo IV and Pope Benedict III. I found her arguments undeniably convincing. I do not know whether Pope Joan existed...more
Gerilyn
I was so torn while reading this book. It was decent writing, the characters were strong--but there were a few problems for me. Everyone was a caricature with the exception of Joan. What I really hated, though, was how the author took a great possibility of a story and turned it into flaming feminist rhetoric. Every favorite feminist theme was there, from rape and abuse to abortion. Why can't smart girls sew and cook as well as dumb ones? And why isn't it OK to be dumb, for that matter, if you'r...more
Leslie
Whenever you see a legend, you can be sure, if you go to the very bottom of things, that you will find history. Vallet de Viriville

Joan Anglicus is a frustrated young girl. The brightest and most scholarly of all her siblings, she is often denied the chance to learn because of her sex. The Dark Ages were a time when womens brains were thought to be smaller than a man's and only needed for child bearing. Why teach a girl to read and write? Joan cannot accept this. She runs away with her older bro...more
melmarian
Quis, quid, quomondo, ubi, quando, cur?

Quis — siapa?

Namanya Joan. Dilahirkan tahun 814 Masehi di Ingelheim (sekarang di wilayah Jerman). Putri satu-satunya seorang kanon (semacam pendeta atau imam) dari Inggris dan istrinya yang orang Saxon. Punya dua kakak laki-laki, Matthew dan John. Dari kecil sudah menampakkan kecerdasan dan keingintahuan yang luar biasa. Joan menderita siksaan fisik dari ayahnya gara-gara hal itu, tapi toh ia tidak mau berhenti belajar.

Quid — apa?

Perjuangan Joan, yang deng...more
Ana T.
Pope Joan is a figure I was aware of but knew next to nothing about, her existence is surrounded by mystery and so she seems the ideal figure to write a historical fiction novel about. Author Donna Woolfolk Cross writes an interesting tale about what could have been a young girl's life in that time.

Daughter of a canon who values women little and definitely finds them unworthy of an education her Joan has to struggle from early on to pursue her studies. Luckily she finds a monk willing to help he...more
Carole Roman
Stunning story about the first alleged female Pope. Donna Woolfolk Cross takes a thousand year old legend and writes a compelling back story that left me with many questions. Pope Joan begins her life as a precocious English child with a thirst for knowledge who eventually fools everyone to become Pope. Steeped in history, Cross explains how this happened with a fascinating tale of ambition and adventure. A great read, she describes many common practices that the leaders of the church follow tod...more
Joseph Soltero
Pope Joan has recently become one of my most favorite books. To think, I bought it months ago, and it’s sat on my shelf all that time. I guess now is the time when I needed to read the book.

Cross has done a superb job bringing the tale of Pope Joan to life in this riveting, epic page-turner. From the very first page, you become irresistibly engrossed in the captivating saga of this girl who was born into a world that limited her behavior, but could not dominate her ambitious spirit, determined t...more
Shelli
I was pleasantly surprised and really enjoyed this book! It has been on my TBR for longer than most. I guess I was expecting a much more dry and tedious story for some reason. I know there are arguments on both sides of this "legend." I didn't concern myself with that. After a bit of a slow start, the story got rolling and it was fast-paced, exciting and fun. It had more of a romance than I was expecting, and lots of drama with several save the day coincidences, but that made it all the more ent...more
Tara Chevrestt
"Let her copy the behavior of a dog who always has his heart and his eye upon his master: even if his master whip him and throw stones at him." That is an excerpt from the book. It was in a wedding ceremony, spoken to the bride of course. What a lovely time that must have been to be a woman! I liked this book very much due mostly to the fact it is about an amazingly strong, courageous, and gutsy woman. She struggled like no other heroine I have yet read about. The first half of the book has more...more
Silver
All in all I would say this book was an enjoyable read and there were some things about it which I found to be interesting. I did like the way in which this book explored the lives of women living in this time period and particularly explored the challenges and struggles of those women who did want to break the mold and wanted more for their lives than what was expected of them and what was allowed to them.

But there were some issues I had with the book.

One of my biggest complaints about the bo...more
Tania
"Joan shrugged. "A man should be free to live the life he chooses." To herself she added, And so, for that matter, should a woman."


Before seeing a GR review on this book, I had never even heard of Pope Joan. I thoroughly enjoyed the story for many different reasons. I thought the author did a brilliant job of making the ninth century come to live. Imagine being a woman in an age where you most probably would not be taught to read, and the only book you would ever see would be the Bible. Where th...more
Doug Bradshaw
Going back into history in a good novel is almost always enjoyable. We cringe as we see how brutal life was with disease, no freedom, exacting religious leaders, hard for the poor to find food, the rich overindulged and sickening. Woman are treated like slaves and their lives are there to serve their husbands. In this book, a very intelligent and likable girl attempts to find her way out of this life only to be kicked back by conservative religious leaders every step of the way. There is no plac...more
Ricardo Serra

Sempre que oiço alguém dizer "Não gosto de ler", penso sempre que infelizmente nunca encontrou o livro certo. Por isso começo por agradecer ao meu bom amigo Marco Caetano, as inúmeras obras que me tem recomendado, pois nas suas indicações tenho-me deleitado com várias horas de prazer literário.

A Papisa Joana foi mais um dos seus notáveis conselhos. Uma obra assombrosa, divinal! Um livro que me fascinou ao primeiro capitulo e que me fez devorar autenticamente as suas folhas, ao ponto de quando t...more
Becky Ahrendsen
recommended by Linda Denberry, used for Book Club March 2011-
Joan is not content to take what society says she should be, born the year of 814 - A smart child of a canon (priest) and Saxon woman (Gudrun who confessed to believe in Christ to save her life after her village had all perished)- Joan learns her older brother, Matthew's lessons. Until he dies. Then There is a visiting scholar (Aesculapius) sees promise in her and teaches her and her younger brother, John. Later, her father lets John...more
Kathy
Apr 03, 2008 Kathy rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Kathy by: Susan from book club
This was a choice for my book club and on first looking it over I expected it to be a little slow and boring. It took me awhile to actually pick it up and start reading it, but it didn't take long at all once I started reading it to really get into it. I found the story fascinating. It takes place in the 9th century A.D. and centers around a young woman with great intelligence and ambition. Reading about the religion and general culture of the time and the attitudes toward women was really inter...more
Debbie
This was absolutely everything you could want in a historical fiction. It is actually right up there with some of the best historical fictions I've ever read. It was reminiscent of Follette at times, reminiscent of Rutherford at times, yet though I was reminded this book was thoroughly it's own. There was just so much to love and be entertained by.

Based on the real (although there is proof some believe legend) Pope John Angelicus aka Johanna aka Joan, like her namesake there is never a single d...more
Cynthia
The entire time I was reading this book I was trying to decide if I liked it or not. I especially enjoyed the first 3/4 of the book, with its description of how Joan moved from childhood to adulthood and made her way as a man in the society of the early Middle Ages. Of course I was appalled by the treatment of women, of considering them to be evil if they dared to open their mouths or use their brains, and I was grateful to have been born now rather than then. However I found the last portion of...more
Mary Seay
I'll pick this book from my shelf at odd times during the year, and no matter what page I land on I get sucked in all over again. It's an engrossing read, well-researched and well-written, that brings each character to life with stunning clarity. The author crafts the heroine in such a way that her perceptions on the current state of the church are far from the heresy one might worry would pervade this novel. In fact, for me, it reinforced the intelligence and plain-clothes wisdom of Christ that...more
Amy
In the ninth century a woman rose to the highest seat in Rome, that of Pope. The Church has since tried to erase her from history. They should know, women don't go away quietly. Donna Woolfolk Cross has given voice to this extraordinary woman, Joan of Ingelheim, later known as Pope John VIII.

Joan and two older brothers were raised by her father, a Canon of the local country church and her mother, a Saxon woman, brought back from one of her father's missionary trips. Joan's father was quite stric...more
Jennifer D
well....this was quite an interesting novel. at moments it teetered into a bit too much soap opera territory, so that took away from the story for me. but overall, very interesting. it made me think of ken follett a bit, but was not as engaging as his historical fiction has been for me. i appreciated, very much, the afterword by the author for this updated edition of the book. she addresses her research for the novel and the effort to get the details of the time correct. she even gives thanks to...more
Rike Jokanan
Aug 15, 2008 Rike Jokanan rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone believing in gender equality
Shelves: reviewed
I read the Indonesian version. Once I saw it in the bookstore , I grabbed and put the book into my shopping bag. And, reading it was such a thrilling experience. It is unbelievable to learn that a Pope was once in the hand of a woman, a partly-Saxon woman.

Partly considered as a religious hoax, Pope Joan is such a controversial character in Catholicsm. Not many believe in her existence as a true story. But some of historical track might show that she was there and then under a shadow of male supe...more
Marco Marino
Ubi Petrus, ibi Ecclesia non est

Alcune idee, come alcune persone sono oltremodo pericolose. Possono essere perniciosi, deleteri per i “nobilissimi” affari loschi, che sono i mattoni d’oro delle istituzioni sorrette dalle colonne dell’infamia e della falsità.
Il concetto più difficile da accettare è sicuramente come un “organo” che dovrebbe lavorare per il bene non solo dei suoi affiliati, ma del mondo intero, possa essere invece un tumore maligno che uccide lentamente e dolorosamente il concetto...more
Lisa
Pope Joan is a story of intrigue, mystery and swashbuckling excitement. It is also historical fiction at its finest! The ninth century was a brutal time of constant warring between countries, neighbors and even within families. Women were merely chattel, to be used for breeding, cooking and cleaning. Education was not even a consideration. The only hope for a woman to learn to read and write was to find a benefactor who was willing to risk persecution to teach her. At the time, some women were a...more
Lucy
This came to me as part of the mail exchange bookclub I've just joined. According to the cover, this is the story of an actual woman in history who rose to become the pope while living in disguise as a man in the 8th century. Never having heard of the book, or the historical figure who was the inspiration behind it, I looked forward to reading something that stretched me.

Almost immediately, I found myself disliking the book. I'm not sure why, but I can't deny the eye rolling or negative comments...more
Megan
OK, 3.5 stars. I think this would have been 4 stars, but I looked up Pope Joan on Wikipedia to see if she is a fictional or historical character and the little paragraph on her spoiled the ending. I almost enjoyed reading the author's notes at the end of the book more than book. Another book that makes me glad I was not born in that time period. Also, another book that makes me in awe of what one person can accomplish despite great difficulty (great difficulty seems like an understatement for th...more
Mary
For a thousand years men have denied her existence—Pope Joan, the woman who disguised herself as a man and rose to rule Christianity for two years. Now this compelling novel animates the legend with a portrait of an unforgettable woman who struggles against restrictions her soul cannot accept.

When her older brother dies in a Viking attack, the brilliant young Joan assumes his identity and enters a Benedictine monastery where, as Brother John Anglicus, she distinguishes herself as a scholar and h...more
Tanja
I love a book where the woman goes against tradition. Was there really a Pope Joan, I don't know. But, I bet there was. Women are very intelligent and if you look to history there is always a women who causes uproar and change in society. The great Joan of Ark comes to mind. I loved the wittiness of Joan and her desire for knowledge. I felt like it was applicable to life now. So many women think that being a woman is less than and we have be like a man to show our worth. I found it sad that it t...more
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What did you think of this book, religious objections aside? 19 133 Apr 27, 2014 08:36AM  
Smart, Strong Women 3 45 Aug 27, 2012 01:06PM  
Historical Fictio...: Sept/Oct 2011: Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross (Medieval History) 140 154 Nov 01, 2011 03:51AM  
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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 goin...more
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“As for will, woman should be considered superior to man for Eve ate of the apple for love of knowledge and learning, but Adam ate of it merely because she asked him.” 49 likes
“There was always a way, when one knew what one wanted.” 23 likes
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