Wednesday, September 15, 2010

September 2010 Book Club Meeting

Summary: For a thousand years her existence has been denied. She is the legend that will not die–Pope Joan, the ninth-century woman who disguised herself as a man and rose to become the only female ever to sit on the throne of St. Peter. Now in this riveting novel, Donna Woolfolk Cross paints a sweeping portrait of an unforgettable heroine who struggles against restrictions her soul cannot accept.

Brilliant and talented, young Joan rebels against medieval social strictures forbidding women to learn. When her brother is brutally killed during a Viking attack, Joan takes up his cloak–and his identity–and enters the monastery of Fulda. As Brother John Anglicus, Joan distinguishes herself as a great scholar and healer. Eventually, she is drawn to Rome, where she becomes enmeshed in a dangerous web of love, passion, and politics. Triumphing over appalling odds, she finally attains the highest office in Christendom–wielding a power greater than any woman before or since. But such power always comes at a price . . .

In this international bestseller, Cross brings the Dark Ages to life in all their brutal splendor and shares the dramatic story of a woman whose strength of vision led her to defy the social restrictions of her day. -- Three Rivers Press

For September, we read POPE JOAN by Donna Woolfolk Cross. I think it was every one's opinion that it was a very enjoyable book. I think even some of us might say that it was "historical fiction at its best." I had read the book at least ten years ago and remembered liking it a great deal, but I definitely needed to re-read it again so everything would be fresh in my mind. I found that I liked it just as much this time around!

We were also extremely fortunate that Ms. Cross agreed to call into our meeting to talk about her book -- and movie! She is extremely passionate about POPE JOAN and I found her insights to be extremely interesting. She discussed her seven year process to research and write this novel, as well as her personal quest to have the POPE JOAN movie available in theaters everywhere. I particularly enjoyed is when she gave us a list of the authors that she believes "do historical fiction right."

I think we all agreed that the messages of POPE JOAN were much more centered around the strength of women than religion, and we had a very interesting discussion on some feminism issues. One thing we all agreed on is that we are so darn lucky to have been born in this century!

Next month, we will be reading THE BLUE ORCHARD by Jackson Taylor, and I am so excited about this pick. THE BLUE ORCHARD takes place right here in Central Pennsylvania -- Harrisburg to be exact. A few of the members have already read this book and can't stop raving about it.

I was lucky enough to hear Mr. Taylor speak at the Harrisburg Book Festival a few months ago, and I've been fascinated by the idea of this book ever since. It was apparent that he did a great deal of research on this area and I can't wait to see how he uses it in his novel. The premise of the book sounds terrific, but I think the personal aspects of the story will make it extra-special for us. It should be a great meeting!

Summary: On the eve of the Great Depression, Verna Krone, the child of Irish immigrants, must leave the eighth grade and begin working as a maid to help support her family. Her employer takes inappropriate liberties, and as Verna matures, it seems as if each man she meets is worse than the last. Through sheer force of will and a few chance encounters, she manages to teach herself to read and becomes a nurse. But Verna's new life falls to pieces when she is arrested for assisting a black doctor with "illegal surgeries." As the media firestorm rages, Verna reflects on her life while awaiting trial. 

Based on the life of the author's own grandmother and written after almost three hundred interviews with those involved in the real-life scandal, The Blue Orchard is as elegant and moving as it is exact and convincing. It is a dazzling portrayal of the changes America underwent in the first fifty years of the twentieth century. Readers will be swept into a time period that in many ways mirrors our own. Verna Krone's story is ultimately a story of the indomitable nature of the human spirit—and a reminder that determination and self-education can defy the deforming pressures that keep women and other disenfranchised groups down. -- Touchstone


Amy said...

These books look really interesting for a book club. Let me ask you...our book club doesn't like a lot of graphic sex in it...what do you know about these books? Would they be appropriate for the majority of our group? thanks!

Julie P. said...


I'm not sure what to say. There is sex in POPE JOAN but I don't remember it being graphic. I'm not sure about the other book because I haven't read it yet.

bermudaonion said...

Having the author call into the meeting would add so much to the experience. It sounds like Pope Joan is a book that has withstood the test of time.

Meghan said...

I thought Pope Joan was really great when I read it - I'm glad your book club thought so too! The Blue Orchard was also really powerful - I bet you'll have a great discussion.

Meghan @ Medieval Bookworm

Carol said...

I have an award for u on my blog! :)


Mystica said...

I loved the Pope Joan book because it gave such a lot of historical information on how the Vatican operates and also on Joan personally and how she balanced her life - I think half the time she forgot she was a woman masquerading as a man.

Just Mom said...

Fun to hear that your book club liked Pope Joan and abotu the author call in - I've got that one here to read....eventually!