Book Concierge's Reviews > Memoirs of a Medieval Woman: The Life and Times of Margery Kempe

Memoirs of a Medieval Woman by Louise Collis
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Feb 02, 2016

it was ok
bookshelves: concierge, library, memoir, christianity, strong-women
Read in August, 2011

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 illiterate, but dictated her memoirs to a priest near the end of her life.) Thank God for Collis’s “interpretation.” The frequent quotes were enough to give me nightmares of a high-school English teacher who specialized in Middle English. As an example: “oon of hem specyaly” = “one of them, specially.” I also got tired of Margery, herself, pretty quickly. She was certainly committed to her cause, but I sympathized with her fellow travellers who wanted to abandon her (she was really insufferable).

In fairness, I did learn quite a lot about the history of this period. Though Chaucer was alive during this period, she probably didn’t know of him (remember, she was illiterate) ; still, I couldn’t help but recall Canterbury Tales (it seems written with “hyr in mynd”).
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