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Great Maria

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  514 ratings  ·  64 reviews
A mere fourteen years old, strong-willed Maria is betrothed to Richard. Theirs is a marriage of conflict, yet one that grows over the years into respect and partnership. As they struggle-at times against each other, at times side-by-side-Maria and Richard emerge as full-blooded characters you'll never forget. ...more
Paperback, 528 pages
Published May 1st 1993 by Soho Press (first published 1974)
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Average rating 4.10  · 
Rating details
 ·  514 ratings  ·  64 reviews

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May 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourite-shelf
I began writing a review and then forgot to save it when I had to leave the PC. I still intend writing one, but I'm out of time for the moment. But to say in the interim that I thoroughly enjoyed revisiting this work. It has stood the test of time and it is very different from the norm. The voice is very powerful and some may find it an acquired taste. Maria is a fantastic heroine - gutsy, earthy, a stubborn survivor who will get her way in the end. Richard manages to be a hero despite doing som ...more
Sep 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Read on the Nook. I loved this book so much I immediately started re-reading it, something I never do.

The scene is 10th century, southern Italy, where Norman lords are coming up against Muslim incursions and starting to beat them back. Maria is the daughter of a Norman robber baron whose castle is in a strategic position. She marries one of her father's knights, and together they embark on a difficult marriage and the task of becoming "great."

Sensitive readers be warned: The author does not sug
Mary Drew
Mar 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I've read this book over many times. I originally had a paperback that fell into two pieces which I kept together by means of a large rubber band. Finally found another pbk copy in a used book store, and then a hardcover (which I'd never seen before) on ebay.

Maria is a great protagonist - a woman in medieval times learning how to use what power she has. The story starts when she is 14 and her father wants to marry her off in order to cement his power in his small holding. Her relationship with t
May 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Whew! This Maria history takes the meaning of the word "stubborn" to a whole new level of intensity. Couple that adjective with numerous other categories of strident, manipulative, cunning, cruel or forceful. But all are warrior-action related in performance. And seat them all within a 14 year old horse riding and field wandering virgin girl (Maria) of the 11th century medieval Norman/Muslim/German Sicily.

It's prose point to length and narration are markedly different than much of this historica

Let me just say, I've reread this book at least 5 times since my original review and each time I'm completely immersed into Maria's world again. She's now my all time favorite character and I judge every new female protagonist by the standard she sets. It's even more amazing when you reread because there are new insights you get everytime (like the fact that Richard loves her a lot more than he lets on). It never gets boring either, with the unconventional structure. I WISH I can find an
Heather C
Great Maria is the story of a woman during a time when women were expected to be subservient to their husbands – but Maria is anything but that. Maria was strong, opinionated, and took part in many different plots that arose around her. The biggest dynamic of this story is between Maria and her husband Richard. This was a segment that I always looked forward to. That isn’t to say that it was always a positive relationship – but I think you have to look at it in terms of the appropriateness to th ...more
Jul 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
At the risk of admitting that I am the sort of person who is pleasantly surprised to discover water is wet despite going for a swim once every week or so, it is gratifying to discover, once more, how unromantic a romantic historical novel can be. Great Maria, of all of Cecelia Hollands' novels I've read this far, is certainly the most romantic of her books. Love and the relationship between a man and a woman plays a central role, and it's the first of her books to feature a female protagonist. I ...more
Apr 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is probably my favourite medieval historical novel ever for its excellent period sense. I think she manages to convey the feeling of being a woman in that period pretty much spot on. Recently re-read it.
Scott Roberts
Oct 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The book has a historical romantic look to the cover. I give this book 5 stars.
Nov 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorite-books
I loved this book! The characters were so well developed that I really cared about them. I'll definitely be reading more by this author. 5+ stars ...more
Aug 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
One of the most remarkable books I have ever read. Cecelia Holland's writing is stellar, and her characters believable and complex. Her thorough research into the era she presents almost offhandedly, which has the effect of immersing us in the 11th century as thoroughly as if we'd entered a time machine. This exploration of marriage and woman's power (or lack thereof) is presented unsentimentally and with great beauty. Maria is a great and unforgettable heroine. As soon as I finished this book, ...more
Juliet Waldron
Jan 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Astonishing writer, astonishing characters! People have told me for years to read her, but I've been so busy writing that I really didn't do much reading, especially in Historical fiction. Her spare style and period correctness was a sort of holy water pouring over me. She can write prose poetry, though, when she wants to--and she does. I respect the amount of research that went into this book, the complete submersion in period, and how the attitudes and ideas of people of that time--so very lon ...more
Feb 14, 2010 rated it really liked it
In Great Maria, noted historical fiction writer Cecelia Holland brings to life the turbulent 11th century in southern Italy. While the Norman nobles and barons battle each other and the Christians push the Saracens to the sea, Maria, the wife of a Norman knight, bravely faces the immense challenges with fortitude and courage. While Maria lives within the restraints of her time, her hopes and dreams speak to women of any age. Great Maria will appeal to readers who enjoy historical fiction that vi ...more
Monica Hills
Mar 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
I'm torn with this book. Maria and Richard were very interesting characters but at times I really just wanted Maria to leave Richard. He was just not a nice man. I know people would say that was the time period but I was very upset at times at how she was treated. Maria was an amazing woman and I really enjoyed reading her story. ...more
Dana Stabenow
Sep 29, 2010 rated it really liked it
One of the best medieval romances with one of the strongest women characters you will ever love.
Bree (AnotherLookBook)
I'm marking this one down as Duly Forgotten.

Abandoned with nary a backward glance. I see what the author was going for, but that doesn't mean I want to go along with her. Other reviewers warned about the unusual writing style--lots of tiny, abrupt sentences. To me, the effect this had on the story was that the characters felt small and cut off, too. Eighty pages in, I still didn't really understand any of them...and what's worse is that I had no interest in understanding any of them. And then th
I really had no idea what this book was about when I got it, but I loved the cover and it only cost me $2.00. The author uses no extra words, no flowery descriptions. The language is stark. At first I thought I wasn't going to like the book for that reason, but it all comes to life so wonderfully. Maria is so real, and I was sorry when it ended. An unexpected pleasure. ...more
Aug 07, 2020 marked it as to-read
Shelves: classics, fiction, history
A part of The Hera Series by Soho Press
Jun 04, 2019 rated it it was ok
DNF, gave up at 34%. Just not enough happening. Supposedly set in the eleventh century in Italy, but it could like the life of almost any woman anywhere in Europe any time between 500 and 1500 CE. A young woman gets married, pops out a few kids, deals with the running of a large household, loses people she loves over the years, and generally just lives a boring-to-read-about life. Two stars because I'm not sure if the problem is with the writing or if it just doesn't work for me personally. ...more
Jan 11, 2009 rated it liked it
Recommended to Yofish by: I have no idea--it has been on my to-read list for at least a decade
Shelves: read-fiction
Really 3.5

Very plot heavy. And it's 500 pages. Almost felt like it had been written in installments---something new has to HAPPEN every month or whatever. And each incident has to be a little more... life-threatening? suspenseful?, maybe just "more" than the last. The ending seems to be just, well, that was the last month. There's no resolution, really it just ends. But apparently it was just written as a book.

Over 500 pages, there is (as certainly must be) some character development. If you sq
Juliean Mihalovich
A Woman's Crusade

This was my second reading of Great Maria, about 10 years apart. I, again, loved the main character, Maria, but this time, I understood and appreciated how her feminism was skillfully applied to the men who shared her life. Here is a woman in a man's world, without education and relegated to a woman's role, not only to become self aware and self sufficient but never to lose the ability to love in the face of great uncertainty.

The story is set in the century between the great cru
Dec 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Is this my favorite book of all time???? It may be. I've re-read it dozens of times over the years - first time in college, and it delights me to the same degree every time. Maria is probably the most captivating heroine of any book I've ever read - smart, resourceful, flawed, and brave. Her world is beautifully formed by Holland, and the other characters in the book are wonderfully drawn.

Holland is an absolutely terrific writer, but I haven't enjoyed any of her other books nearly as much.
Rebecca Huston
One of my favourite reads as a teenager. Still not too bad when I read it again as an adult. Maria is tough, loving and passionate and no man's doormat. Gotta love that. While some of what happens is pretty politically incorrect to modern eyes, wife-beating was recommended in the middle ages. If you can stomach that, then this one isn't too bad.

For the complete review, please go here:
Jan 22, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Maria was one very interesting character! Set in Sicily in the 1000s, the novel revolves around the conflicts of the Normans and the Saracens. I knew nothing about the history of Sicily in this time, so it was interesting to vicariously live it through the novel. Supposedly the novel is based upon the Hauteville family: ...more
Andrea Jaffray
Sep 12, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: books-i-own
Fought through this one. I found the writing too choppy and that detracted from the story. Also, I found that I was unable to get emotionally connected. By the end, I was just glad I was finished the book.
Feb 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
Excellent historical novel, definitely NOT a historic romance.
Jul 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Loved this book so much, that i have reread it.
If you read this, you need to suspend modern standards of gender relations. This is set during the Crusades. Women were treated abysmally. The fact that this historical fiction/romance doesn't shy away from that, or try to erase it, is a good thing.

I think I liked this, although I'm mostly coming away slightly bewildered. The writing style is really understated, and so I didn't grasp important plot points or details until after the fact; there aren't many of the syntactical details that would ty
📚♾ JRFOS ♾📚
What a hidden historical fiction treasure! Why isn’t this on top historical fiction books ever read? This story about 11th century woman holding her own in a man’s ferociously and unapologetic dominated era!

I could read about the Maria’s of the world all day! It’s so funny (sad) that 10 centuries later, so many Men still believe unless you look like them, you can not be successful. The underlying fear & discrimination is real... Hi Elizabeth Warren!

I will own this book, I will make sure my dau
It was pretty good, but it was very slow paced and honestly if I hadn't been lying on beach all day doing nothing but reading, I probably wouldn't have been able to pull through. It's driven by character much more than action, and the characters are definitely fully fleshed out, my only major annoyance being Maria's lack of good friends. Though she had a couple of female attendants through the years, most of them were less than impressive. I was a bit annoyed to find out that though it was set i ...more
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Pen name used by Elizabeth Eliot Carter.

Cecelia Holland is one of the world's most highly acclaimed and respected historical novelists, ranked by many alongside other giants in that field such as Mary Renault and Larry McMurtry. Over the span of her thirty year career, she's written almost thirty historical novels, including The Firedrake, Rakessy, Two Ravens, Ghost on the Steppe, Death of Attila,

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