Katharina transported me back in time to the 16th century and I felt as though I was inside Katharina’s mind and felt what she was feeling. I was fascinated and so anxious for her right from the start as a small child.
This novel has vastly expanded my knowledge of both Luther and Katharina in a most moving story. I like the dual aspect time line and the way historical facts are woven into their story. It is a dramatic story too. I loved it and am looking forward to the next one.
Margaret Skea has a brilliant eye for historical detail. She creates characters who take us by the hand so that we never stumble or wonder where we are.
When Katharina von Bora’s mother dies and a step mother arrives, she is parcelled off like many girls of her generation to a convent where she reconciles herself to the harsh regime without ever quite giving up thoughts of a life beyond its walls. Meanwhile a radical priest is stirring up rebellion in the church, questioning not just the sale of indulgences but also the barbarity of imprisoning girls against their will. . As the Reformation gathers momentum, Katharina and a group of her friends are ‘sprung’ from the convent and given shelter in the homes of sympathisers. Here she is party to meetings between Luther and his acolytes where she gives us her particular take on the political and religious disputes of the time. Alongside this we have the emotional journey of a girl whose puberty has been stolen from her and who experiences the joys and sorrows of romance while facing the necessity of finding a husband.
I confess to being almost totally ignorant of the history – and geography – underlying this narrative but in the hands of this very capable author I was deftly guided through unfamiliar terrain. Yes, there were a lot of names to get my head round, but Katharina’s passion and intellectual curiosity are a perfect medium for understanding what was at stake in this period of religious and political turmoil.
Already a fan of Margaret Skea’s Munro series, I recognise the same fluency and the use of telling historical detail which allows us to walk alongside the main character without feeling weighed down by history. This is an engrossing read, my only sight disappointment was not to discover how Katharina’s marriage plays out. For that I’ll have to wait for Bk 2!
A Bacon: Between the Lines
A wonderfully vivid portrait of how a headstrong girl grows into a wry, steely and impassioned woman, carves a path for herself through tumultuous times, and changes the course of history in the process. Skea knows her history, but more importantly, she writes with imagination and humanity.
Professor Alec Ryrie, Durham University and author of Protestants