Synopses & Reviews
Minerva, Minnesota, in 1923 is the picture of Willa Cather-like gentility: the Northern Pacific Railway runs through a town center dominated by church steeples and the Hamilton Creamery and Pop Factory. But Minerva is also a small town of limited opportunity, a place where the status quo is firmly entrenched and rigidly enforced. Against this tableau of midwestern placidity and calm, three Minerva women assert their dignity and independence against all odds.
The troubled relationship between young Penny and her mother, Barbara, is getting worse. Disturbed by her mother's affair with the man they clean house for, Penny answers an ad to work for Cora Egan, a Chicago society woman who has fled a bad marriage and intends to raise her child alone on her grandfather's farm. Cora's situation shocks the town, but over time her presence opens a door in Penny's and Barbara's lives. Through these women, Mary Sharratt considers what it takes to reinvent the self, to claim one's true identity.
Mary Sharratt's first novel, Summit Avenue, was hailed as a "remarkablel debut . . . [that] weaves dark, evocative fairy tales and passionate longings into an incandescent coming-of-age story" (Publishers Weekly, starred review). Readers interested in feminine archetypes and women in myth will be similarly drawn to Sharratt's newest novel. Exquisite historical detail and emotional resonance infuseThe Real Minerva,an old-fashioned story with a modern spirit.
"An imaginative retelling of the fascinating life of the twelfth-century nun Hildegard von Bingen . . . Sharratts gripping story, like Ann Patchetts Bel Canto, is primarily about relationships forged under pressure." —Publishers Weekly
Skillfully weaving historical fact with psychological insight and vivid imagination, Illuminations
brings to life one of the most extraordinary women of the Middle Ages: Hildegard von Bingen, Benedictine abbess, visionary, and polymath.
Offered to the Church at the age of eight, Hildegard was expected to live in silent submission as the handmaiden of a renowned, disturbed young nun, Jutta von Sponheim. But Hildegard rejected Jutta's masochistic piety, rejoicing in her own secret visions of the divine. When Jutta died, Hildegard broke out of her prison, answering the heavenly call to speak and write about her visions and to liberate her sisters. Riveting and utterly unforgettable, Illuminations is a deeply moving portrayal of a woman willing to risk everything for what she believed.
“Sharratt brings one of the most famous and enigmatic women of the Middle Ages to vibrant life in this tour de force, which will captivate the reader from the very first page.” —Sharon Kay Penman
“One could not anticipate this majesty and drama . . . Illuminations is riveting, following von Bingen through . . . to emerge as one of the significant voices of the 12th century . . . Unforgettable.” —January Magazine
One of the most extraordinary women of the Middle Ages, Hildegard von Bingen—Benedictine abbess, healer, composer, saint—experienced mystic visions from a very young age. Offered by her noble family to the Church at the age of eight, she lived for years in forced silence. But through the study of books and herbs, through music and the kinship of her sisters, Hildegard found her way from a life of submission to a calling that celebrated the divine glories all around us. In this brilliantly researched and insightful novel, Mary Sharratt offers a deeply moving portrait of a woman willing to risk everything for what she believed, a triumphant exploration of the life she might well have lived.
“Gripping . . . Like Ann Patchetts Bel Canto, [Illuminations] is primarily about relationships forged under pressure.” —Publishers Weekly
“Masterful.”—Saint Paul Pioneer Press
A Light Far-Shining: A Novel of the Pendle Witches reveals the true story of Bess Southerns, aka Old Demdike, cunning woman, healer, and the most notorious of the Pendle Witches of 1612. (Set in Lancaster, England)
Daughters of theWitching Hill
brings history to life in a vivid and wrenching account of a family sustained by love as they try to survive the hysteria of a witch-hunt.
Bess Southerns, an impoverished widow living in Pendle Forest, is haunted by visions and gains a reputation as a cunning woman. Drawing on the Catholic folk magic of her youth, Bess heals the sick and foretells the future. As she ages, she instructs her granddaughter, Alizon, in her craft, as well as her best friend, who ultimately turns to dark magic.
When a peddler suffers a stroke after exchanging harsh words with Alizon, a local magistrate, eager to make his name as a witch finder, plays neighbors and family members against one another until suspicion and paranoia reach frenzied heights.
Sharratt interweaves well-researched historical details of the 1612 Pendle witch-hunt with a beautifully imagined story of strong women, family, and betrayal. Daughters of the Witching Hill is a powerful novel of intrigue and revelation.
In the tradition of Philippa Gregorys smart, transporting fiction comes this tale of dark suspense, love, and betrayal, featuring two star-crossed sisters, one lost and the other searching.
Bright and inquisitive, Hannah Powers was raised by a father who treated her as if she were his son. While her beautiful and reckless sister, May, pushes the limits of propriety in their small English town, Hannah harbors her own secret: their father has given her an education forbidden to women. But Hannahs secret serves her well when she journeys to colonial Maryland to reunite with May, who has been married off to a distant cousin after her sexual misadventures ruined her marriage prospects in England.
As Hannah searches for May, who has disappeared, she finds herself falling in love with her brother-in-law. Alone in a wild, uncultivated land where the old rules no longer apply, Hannah is freed from the constraints of the society that judged both her and May as dangeroustoo smart, too fearless, and too hungry for life. But Hannah is also plagued by doubt, as her quest for answers to Mays fate grows ever more disturbing and tangled.
About the Author
MARY SHARRATT is an American writer who has lived in the Pendle region of Lancashire, England, for the past seven years. The author of the critically acclaimed novels Summit Avenue, The Real Minerva, and The Vanishing Point, Sharratt is also the coeditor of the subversive fiction anthology Bitch Lit, a celebration of female antiheroes, strong women who break all the rules.