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Pope Joan Buddy Read

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message 1: by Sydney (new)

Sydney | 249 comments Mod
Pope Joan
By Donna Woolfolk Cross

Welcome to the Pope Joan Buddy Read. I thought we would read through page 134 this week, which will bring us to chapter II -- does that seem OK? One week from today (next Wednesday) we can wrap up the discussion of the first 134 pages. If you get ahead in your reading of the story, just watch out for “Spoilers.”

Feel free to comment and discuss the book as we read -- that is how a buddy read works. I have been looking forward to reading this book for quite a while now. It promises to be a fascinating and enjoyable read.

I read the prologue and I think the author set the story up very well. I see the atmosphere as harsh, dark, cold, and dangerous. Gudrun and Joan have to be very strong to have survived such a horrendous birth/birthing. I hope the difficult time Joan had coming into the world is not an indication of a difficult life ahead.

The Canon showed himself to be a cold and uncaring man who was more concerned with his faith than with the life of his wife and child. He helped with the birth only out of a selfish desire to not be left alone to raise his two boys. If it had not been for his selfishness he would have let them both die without raising a hand. He, as the first man to look upon Joan, considered her a punishment.

Do you think that the dead crow directly in Hrotrud’s path is a very bad omen for her?



message 2: by Donna (new)

Donna I agree that the author has made a strong beginning. The harsh conditions of the time, both physical and emotional, are stunning. It is amazing that people could actually survive day to day. Given these conditions it doesn’t surprise me that the Canon and even the villagers have rather cold, uncaring, self centered outlooks. Life was short and of very little value.

It’s interesting that you mentioned the dead crow as an omen. Omens or signs played such a big part in the lives of the people of those times. Yes, I don’t think Hrotrud’s future is too promising since midwives were often persecuted. If they were successful in helping people with herbs (medicine) they were witches, if they were not successful they were murderers.



message 3: by Sydney (new)

Sydney | 249 comments Mod

You were certainly right about Hrotrud…. Poor Hrotrud – we both saw that coming. Hrotrud was a victim of the blind faith and total lack of reason that was prevalent among the people of the day. Violence against women was allowable and accepted. Men still feel the need to exercise their power over women today, but it is clandestine and frowned upon by most of society.

I think we have met the future love interest of Joan’s life – or at least a character who will have an significant influence in her life. Anastasius was being taught to think for himself and use logic even during the most horrendous circumstances. The horror that took place in the Lateran Palace took me by surprise. I have to remember what a brutal period of time this was.

How are you enjoying the book so far?

I am a little behind in my reading, but I will be all caught up by Wednesday.




message 4: by Donna (new)

Donna I am really enjoying the book. I haven’t read much set in the Middle Ages and I too had forgotten what a brutal time period this was.

My copy of the book has an interview with Donna Cross in the back and the interviewer asked what she wanted readers to get out of the book. Her answer was “to empower yourself in this world you must learn…. Even today….the first privilege that is taken away from a subservient group such as women is the right to education.” This is clearly the case in Joan’s life but I think it also applies to some degree to many of the other characters as they struggle against superstition and tradition in their efforts to advance in their studies and make their way in their world.

The use/abuse of power is another theme I see developing. The incident in the Lateran Palace certainly did not paint a very virtuous picture of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in those days.

That Fulgentius inherited the position of bishop from his uncle without even being a priest and that his mistress was accepted really was more like a secular royal court.

I think Gerold will also be a strong influence in Joan’s life – if he can contain his physical attraction to her - and it seems as if he is one person who tries to use some of his power in positive ways.

The descriptions of the more normal problems of a girl growing up and trying to find her place in Gerold’s household were a nice balance to the rather unusual interests Joan has and her problems with getting an education. It sort of rounded out her character a bit, made her a bit more human.




message 5: by Sydney (new)

Sydney | 249 comments Mod

Hi Donna,

The author has kept the pace of the story very brisk up to this point and I have a real fascination with this time period so I am finding it very enjoyable and enlightening too. Yes - I agree that the author has rounded out the character of Joan very nicely so far. I am already very sympathetic to her.

The Catholic Church wielded a huge amount of power and influence in those days. I was not surprised by Flugentius; he was just a man and was not pretending to be anything else.

You are right about Gerold…. It will be interesting to see if he will give into his baser instincts, but so far he has been her champion. The dynamics of the relationship between Joan and Gerold are magnetic - for want of a better word. His wife sensed an attraction between them that she resented from the moment he brought Joan into their home and women have good instincts about these things.

John is proving himself to be his father’s son. His resentment of his sister and womanhood in general raised its ugly head during the incident at the schola. It seemed a bit out of character for him to be able to think so quickly and defend himself so well during the skirmish on the way to the schola. Evidently he does have the makings of a warrior.

Let’s read up through page 270 between now and next Wednesday - OK? That will bring us up to Chapter 21.





message 6: by Donna (last edited Jan 29, 2009 07:24PM) (new)

Donna Hi Sydney, that should be fine. I have had a few minutes free for some reading tonight and big changes are coming.


message 7: by Sydney (new)

Sydney | 249 comments Mod
I have found it amazing that the author has been able to keep up the fast pace of the story so well. Every time I start to relax – BAM! – Something startling happens. I am sure there are bound to be some slow spots in here as we read along. If I weren’t so busy with other things right now, I probably would have finished this book by now because I hate to put it aside.

I am fascinated by the symbolism connected to (Luke) the White Wolf pup? He was proof that Odo was not correct about the wolf pup being proof of a “miracle.” Do you think Luke is a symbol of Joan’s purity of purpose, her knowledge and instincts or her innocence? She made Odo into a serious enemy by questioning the miracle of the resurrection.



message 8: by Donna (new)

Donna Almost up to page 270 and the pace has not let up. Like you if I didn’t have other things I had to do I would be finished by now.

This section got me thinking about how young everyone is. Gerold was only 29 and considered no longer young, girls were married at 14 or 15, and most of the soldiers were under 18. Life expectancy, of course, was not very long and there was no time for extended childhoods or adolescence but the responsibilities, decisions, and challenges of adulthood certainly came at an early age.

I agree that Joan made an enemy of Odo. She does seem to have a talent for making enemies – intentionally or unintentionally. Her outspoken ways and her unusual interest, especially for a women, in education alienates her from many of the people around her. Even when she adopts the male disguise jealousy among the other monks causes problems as she advances through the ranks of the monastery of Fulda.



message 9: by Sydney (new)

Sydney | 249 comments Mod
Donna wrote: "Almost up to page 270 and the pace has not let up. Like you if I didn’t have other things I had to do I would be finished by now.

This section got me thinking about how young everyone is. Gerol..."


I was thinking the same things about their ages. Joan and John were children and I couldn’t believe they were so single minded about what they wanted. When they left home, they were about the same ages as my grandchildren are now and I just find it unbelievable that people that young were pushed out into life on their own to sink or swim so to speak.





message 10: by Sydney (new)

Sydney | 249 comments Mod

“Nothing, save the unimaginable torments of Hell, inspired more horror, revulsion, and fear than the disease of leprosy”

The reactions that people have to leprosy in the book reminded me of the early reaction of people of our modern day to the dreadful disease of Aids. If you ever get a chance read Moloka’i by Alan Brennert. It is about a young girl’s life, in Hawaii a century ago, after she was sent to live in a leprosy settlement on the island of Moloka’i.

I am about 10 pages behind schedule, but I should catch up tonight. Joan is about to head to Rome where, no doubt, she will have more amazing adventures. Let’s just finish the book up this week. I will try to be finished by next Wednesday.




message 11: by Donna (new)

Donna I have read Moloka'i and really enjoyed it. Moloka'i was set 1000 years after Joan's time and people were still very afraid of leprosy.

Poor Gerold. He really has had his world turned upside down. It is amazing that he could go on. I don't want to spoil anything for you but I have a suspicion that Gerold and Joan will meet again.


message 12: by Sydney (new)

Sydney | 249 comments Mod
Donna wrote: "I have read Moloka'i and really enjoyed it. Moloka'i was set 1000 years after Joan's time and people were still very afraid of leprosy.

Poor Gerold. He really has had his world turned upside dow..."


It is hard to believe that Moloka’i took place that long after Joan’s adventures.

You are not spoiling anything for me, I know that Gerold and Joan meeting again is inevitable, but with Joan’s ambivalent feelings about her feminism I have no idea how that meeting will go.

When they told Joan that her father had come to visit her, I thought it was going to be Gerold even though I had no idea how he would have gotten there. I was shocked that it was really her father and I held my breath all during their fateful encounter.





message 13: by Donna (new)

Donna I had exactly the same thought! That it would actually be her father really surprised me.

While it was a dramatic moment it may have just been a bit over the top, although I can't imagine how the author could have had Joan's father leave knowing that she was not John. He would never have kept her secret.




message 14: by Sydney (new)

Sydney | 249 comments Mod
Donna wrote: "I had exactly the same thought! That it would actually be her father really surprised me.

While it was a dramatic moment it may have just been a bit over the top, although I can't imagine how th..."


No he would not have kept the secret. He died being frustrated that he did not have the ability to betray her. He was a cruel and unfeeling man.




message 15: by Donna (new)

Donna Hi Sydney, I was able to finish the book last night and the pace did not let up all the way to the end. I visited Rome a few years ago and walked all over the city for a week so I really enjoyed all the descriptions of Rome and the Vatican.

I realize that most of Joan’s story has to be fiction since there are very few historical documents from this time period but I thought Joan was a very believable character. The difficult choices she had to make are faced by anyone who is called to lead and in her case the additional freedom she found in her male role compared to what her life would have been as a female made many of those choices harder.

I am looking forward to your thoughts later this week.



message 16: by Sydney (new)

Sydney | 249 comments Mod
Donna wrote: "Hi Sydney, I was able to finish the book last night and the pace did not let up all the way to the end. I visited Rome a few years ago and walked all over the city for a week so I really enjoyed a..."

I should be at the end of the book within the next few days and will post my final thoughts.

It is wonderful that you have had the opportunity to actually see Rome and the Vatican. The book has given me a fairly good view of how everything looked then, but I am sure you can picture it even more clearly.

Joan may be only a legend, but what an remarkable legend she is.



message 17: by Sydney (new)

Sydney | 249 comments Mod
Sydney wrote: "Donna wrote: "Hi Sydney, I was able to finish the book last night and the pace did not let up all the way to the end. I visited Rome a few years ago and walked all over the city for a week so I re..."


I finished the book this morning.

When Anastasius was first introduced into the story, I knew he was going to have an important impact on Joan’s life, but mistakenly thought it was going to be a positive impact. It was interesting to watch him develop into her archenemy!

If Joan did exist and rise through the ranks to become pope, she was an amazing woman. One of the things that struck me about her character was that she was not an especially religious person. She followed the only path available that would allow her to pursue learning and allow her to use her logic and intelligence.

These sentences from the book really summed Joan up for me:

Page 355 – “She was torn between her desire to know God and her fear that He might not exist. Mind and heart, faith and doubt, will and desire. Would the painful contradictions of her nature ever be reconciled?” - In the end they never were.

I think the author did a wonderful job of telling this story and developing the main characters of the book. The book was obviously very well researched and she included a lot of period detail, but the story never got bogged down. I enjoyed the way she maintained the pace of the story from the beginning to end.

I really enjoyed reading this book and I think it is a very impressive first novel.







message 18: by Donna (new)

Donna Sydney, Did you they are making this into a movie?


message 19: by Sydney (new)

Sydney | 249 comments Mod
Donna wrote: "Sydney, Did you they are making this into a movie? "

No I did not know about a movie. I will watch for it because I would love to see what they do with the story. It could make a very good movie.

Thank you for being such a good reading buddy, I enjoyed the experience. I hope we can do it again sometime soon.





message 20: by Wanda (new)

Wanda (wanda514) Dear Everyone: I read Pope Joan ages ago. It is wonderful and I am really enjoying reading your comments. I joined the group too late to join in the read and for that I am sorry. I would love to participate. Anyway, I won't spoil a thing - just enjoy the book - it is fabulous.


message 21: by Donna (new)

Donna Hi Sydney and Wanda, We discussed Pope Joan at my in person book group last night and I think everyone really enjoyed it.

There was one comment that I thought was rather interesting though. The general opinion was that the author is a very skilled writer and she certainly knows her subject but the few romantic scenes did not ring true. They wondered if she was encouraged by her publisher to include them to satisfy a certain segment of the market.

What do you think?

Donna


message 22: by Sydney (new)

Sydney | 249 comments Mod
Wanda514 wrote: "Dear Everyone: I read Pope Joan ages ago. It is wonderful and I am really enjoying reading your comments. I joined the group too late to join in the read and for that I am sorry. I would love t..."

Hi Wanda,
We have finished the read and I am sorry you weren't able to join in. Hopefully, we will connect on a future buddy read.

Sydney




message 23: by Sydney (new)

Sydney | 249 comments Mod
Donna wrote: "Hi Sydney and Wanda, We discussed Pope Joan at my in person book group last night and I think everyone really enjoyed it.

There was one comment that I thought was rather interesting though. The ..."



Hi Donna,
Very interesting observation. I have passed the book along through Paperback Swap so I can’t go back and re-read anything. However, there were very few romantic scenes that I remember and they were written with a very “light” hand. I think the author wanted to be sure it did not read like a romance novel.

I think that if Joan and Gerold had had a hot and heavy relationship it would have hurt the story. If they had given in to their desires early in the story, I would not have found the choices that Joan made believable. The fact that Pope Joan had given birth to a child is part of the legend about her so perhaps the author felt compelled to include that last romantic interlude.








message 24: by Wanda (new)

Wanda (wanda514) Dear Sydney: Thanks so much for your comment. I look forward to participating in the next buddy read - when will it be? Which book will we be reading? Thanks so much.


message 25: by Sydney (new)

Sydney | 249 comments Mod
Wanda514 wrote: "Dear Sydney: Thanks so much for your comment. I look forward to participating in the next buddy read - when will it be? Which book will we be reading? Thanks so much. "

Hi Wendy,
Anyone can request a buddy read at anytime. If someone posts that they are going to be reading a particular book and you want to read it too, just jump in and say so.

I hope we will be seeing a lot more buddy reads taking place on this group soon.

Sydney





message 26: by Susan C (last edited Oct 31, 2009 02:16PM) (new)

Susan C (somersetpurplegmailcom) | 66 comments My in person book club read this book a number of years ago. After reading the description on the back, they thought it should be ok but were very sceptical. They all loved it.

For me, I was hooked from page one. Just the idea that a woman possibly was pope was so interesting. I agree with earlier comments that she was so devoted to learning and knew disguising herself was the only way. She was a brave woman. I would have liked the book to end differently though.


message 27: by Sydney (new)

Sydney | 249 comments Mod
Hi Susan,
We read this quite a while back and this thread should be closed.

I really enjoyed this book too.


message 28: by Susan C (new)

Susan C (somersetpurplegmailcom) | 66 comments Sorry!!!!


message 29: by Sydney (new)

Sydney | 249 comments Mod
There is nothing to be sorry about. Please feel free to comment anywhere you like on our group. Or - jump in and join a buddy read whenever you like.






message 30: by Susan C (last edited Oct 31, 2009 03:42PM) (new)

Susan C (somersetpurplegmailcom) | 66 comments Thanks!!!! I'm doing the Cleopatra buddy read.

I just love Pope Joan, it's one of my top ten of all time.


message 31: by Sydney (new)

Sydney | 249 comments Mod
I wish you had been here to read it with us. Glad you are joining in on Cleopatra. - Enjoy


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