Sharratt, Mary

  15 Reviews

Mystic, visionary, musician, healer and saint ... Hildegard von Bingen was an unconventional woman of her time. Offered up to the Church as a child, she endured decades of seclusion before emerging as a courageous leader and founder of her own monastery.

Based on historical material, this richly imagined story brings to vivid life this extraordinary medieval figure, remembered today for her legacy of beautiful music, spiritual insight and her influence on modern feminist thinking. A fascinating and inspirational read.

Comments from Groups

This fictional story of the life of Hildegard von Bingen, led to a lively discussion in our group that encompassed many aspects of the female role in society through the ages. Christchurch 390

Everyone in our group enjoyed this book - a 'wow' read. We felt the first person narration style worked well, and that Mary Sharratt had researched her subject very effectively. Several in the group did think there was a 21st century 'slant' to Hildegard's thoughts on sexual abuse - it didn't seem to fit with the 12th century likely awareness of these areas? All were keen to read other books by this author. Havelock North 012

We all loved this book...what a fascinating woman Hildegard was. This was well written, and able to put us in the mind of a medieval woman. Evocative description, and incredible detail of life at this time.The story gripped us from the first few pages, although dragged a bit at the end. It stimulated a great and wide-ranging discussion. Tauranga 009

We all enjoyed this book and had great discussions on the place of women in society, from the 1100s through to today. Also on power - power and the Catholic church, power and money, power and men. Tokoroa 001

This book precipitated more discussion than any other this year. Everyone was intrigued, but slightly frustrated about what was fact, and what was fiction.... Auckland 199

It is such a great story - wonderfully written. Great discussion about what women can cope with! Thanks a was just fascinating! Turangi 001

On the whole, this book was very much enjoyed and gave an easy-to-read illustration of the period. Characterisation was effective. Lively discussion and provocation to learn more about the music of Hildegard von Bingen, the historical backdrop and greater historical detail to ascertain whether her life was 'typical' of the times. Nelson 068

All but one of us completely loved this book - we felt inspired and in awe of the women of those times. Hildegard was such a feisty, courageous person despite the years of adversity. Most of the group would heartily recommend it. Not a hard read, and difficult to put down. Waikanae 010

Two members found the book very difficult to read at the beginning due to the emotional content, but persevered and all admitted it was fascinating. We all learnt so much about religion in that era. An incredible and mesmerising book. I've recommended it to a number of friends. Christchurch 088

We found the first half of the book difficult, but really enjoyed the second part. What a wonderful woman Hildegard was! Dunedin 058

During our discussion of 'Illuminations' we listened to the songs which had been composed by Hildegard von Bingen in the middle ages - an enchanting background for our group. We all agreed that our knowledge of the Crusades was slight - but most enjoyed this adventure and the picture painted of this remarkable Benedictine nun. Te Horo 002

Very divided opinions on this book. Some loved it and enjoyed the writing - others quite dismissive about author's approach to writing a novel about a real person. Greytown 001

Of those who read the book, several were very upset by it, and the remainder thought it was marvellous. An incredible life. Nelson 023

Our highest scoring book this year! Topped both 'The Healing' and 'The Spark'. We had a lot of discussion around the relationship between Hildegard and Richardis, Jutta and her brother Meginhard; the horror of being compelled to become an anchorite (how COULD her mother?), and our admiration for Hildegard's strength. Some of us have listened to her music for years, so it was lovely to read about her. Auckland 037

Some of us found this book disturbing, others found it riveting and inspirational. Well worth reading, however. Christchurch 009



WELL 060
Absolutely fascinating - so well written and researched.
We were unanimous in our appreciation of this book. Mary Sharratt used skillful penmanship to bring Hildegard to life. This is an incredible story about a fascinating, resilient woman. We would also recommend listening to Hildegards music.
NAP 005
There was much discussion on a wide range of concepts including - the social structure and beliefs of that era compared with the 20th & 21st century power from money, force or beliefs; the place and role of women in society then and now; the author's choice of Hildegard for a novel; how well Hildegard is known today; and what an extraordinary woman she must have been. The book inspired one member of the group to listen to some of her music (which was enjoyed).
TAUR 061
This was both a harrowing and engaging read. We admired the courage and fortitude of Hildegard and once again were confronted with the age old theme of gender equity. Definitely a woman before her time and someone we can celebrate. Illuminations was indeed illuminating!
We enjoyed this more than we expected to. It was interesting, the different perspectives on being locked down or locked in. We learned so much from this book.
NELS 077
A fascinating and harrowing story and an amazing piece of history. Most enjoyed it although a couple found it a bit dark. We wanted to learn more about Hildegard after reading it and we listened to some of her music.
CHCH 449
A mIxed reaction to this book although we all agreed it was "illuminating"! Some found it a struggle to read and had to be encouraged to finish it. It was a great illustration of the era and the way in which women, in particular, were treated in a certain sector of society. The comparison to the church of that day compared to modern churches today was immense with few, if any, similarities. Most of us did further research on Hildegard von Bingen and were pleased to find that the the author portrayed her very accurately as far as we could tell.
MAST 008
A brilliant book which we all found fascinating. Very well researched and written in a very readable way. Portrayed a remarkable woman who rose above the dreadful position she was put in, and succeeded in becoming an abbess. A lot of parallels with present day male domination of women in some cultures.
AUCK 071
Everyone in the group enjoyed the book. They also found a great deal of the background interesting (and horrific), but all admired Hildegard for her courage, determination and amazing intellect. We felt we could go on discussing the many themes for days. Thoroughly recommended.
This was a very popular book with the group. It was enjoyed by everyone. Even though it was slow moving, it was one that you wanted to read and finish. It created great discussion about the life of the time, and how it relates to today.
CHCH 110
Our group really enjoyed 'Illuminations'. We agreed that the writing of it was an achievement. The life of Hildegard von Bingen - her challenges, resilience, faith, sensitivity and many talents - was new to us and credibly described. We felt rich by the insight we gained, not just into her life, but also into the lives of nuns and the position of women centuries ago. The questions led to great discussions.
We really enjoyed this book. It was inspiring. She was an extraordinary woman who lived 900 years ago and yet her writings are still relevant today. Thank you for the opportunity to read this book.
We all enjoyed this book for the vividness of the writing in depicting the fascinating life of Hildegard von Bingen, as portrayed by Mary Sharratt whose extensive research made this story believable. A wonderful portrait of a riveting medieval woman whose divine revelations in the form of visions spurred her on to form a Benedictine abbey, and to stand up to the power of the Church.
Most readers were drawn in from the very first page. Wonderful story in an interesting historical time. Led readers to search on the internet for more information about Hildegard, abbeys and anchorites. Lovely to read.
CHCH 378
Very lively discussion from our group. Some felt the book kept your interest going, andespecially for those who were not religious it was a whole new experience. We all felt it was an awesome read, very educational and would recommend. The book gave us a background picture of how women were treated in general and the book was very well researched.