Pope Joan

by Donna Cross | Literature & Fiction |
ISBN: 0345416260 Global Overview for this book
Registered by Lpree of Omaha, Nebraska USA on 4/2/2004
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8 journalers for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by Lpree from Omaha, Nebraska USA on Friday, April 02, 2004
I enjoy novels where the line between truth & fiction is very blurry. This book is no different. The historical details were fascinating and the story behind the life of this female Pope kept me reading.

Book description (via Amazon):

"For a thousand years men have denied her existence--Pope Joan, the woman who disguised herself as a man and rose to rule Christianity for two years. Now this compelling novel animates the legend with a portrait of an unforgettable woman who struggles against restrictions her soul cannot accept.

When her older brother dies in a Viking attack, the brilliant young Joan assumes his identity and enters a Benedictine monastery where, as Brother John Anglicus, she distinguishes herself as a scholar and healer. Eventually drawn to Rome, she soon becomes enmeshed in a dangerous mix of powerful passion and explosive politics that threatens her life even as it elevates her to the highest throne in the Western world."

I will be trying to start a book ring with this book.

Journal Entry 2 by Lpree at Bookring in to another bookcrosser, By Post -- Controlled Releases on Friday, April 09, 2004
Released on Friday, April 09, 2004 at Bookring in to another bookcrosser, By Post Controlled Releases.

Mailed priority mail to nillabreen.

Delivery confirmation # 0303 3430 0000 0353 9080


1. nillabreen (MA)
2. keister (AK)
3. abs (CA)
4. roadrunner (TX)
5. reader1107 (WI)
6. mlbish (IL)
7. lorelei03 (NY)
8. reader1107 (WI) <-- update
... then back to me (MD)

Journal Entry 3 by nillabreen from Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts USA on Tuesday, April 13, 2004
This book arrived in the mail yesterday. It goes to the top of the TBR stack. I'm looking forward to it! Thank you!

Journal Entry 4 by nillabreen from Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts USA on Saturday, May 22, 2004

I really enjoyed this one. Thank you! I don't think I would have picked it up if not for the bookring, so I'm thankful for it.

I felt immersed in the Dark Ages. The prodigious historical detail makes reading this book a transporting experience. It's one thing to eschew anachronism in physical description, but it's another thing entirely to maintain historical consistency in the beliefs and proclivities of the characters. It's absolutely believable that these people live in the dark ages. This is extraordinarily well-done.

And Joan! I'd really like to have a cup of coffee with her! I like reading a book where I think I would enjoy hanging out with the main character.

I loved the bit at the end where the author listed every deviation from historical fact that she used in furthering the plot: this is clearly an author who cared about getting the record straight. Because it was so thorough and believable, I think there could be some truth in it.

There's been some criticism of this book for the unlikely coincidences, but if a woman ever became pope, I should think there would have to have been some coincidences along the way.

In the interest of keeping the ring moving, I sent it to the next person as soon as I finished reading it, maybe two weeks ago. It should arrive any day now.

Journal Entry 5 by keister from Anchorage, Alaska USA on Monday, May 24, 2004
Yea! A book in my mailbox today! This will be my next book read. I really enjoy trying out different books that are shared and discussed here. :9)

Journal Entry 6 by keister from Anchorage, Alaska USA on Saturday, July 17, 2004
Pope Joan is heading to abs. Work got in the way this summer and I won't be able to enjoy reading her this time. Run little book... and enjoy your travels!

Journal Entry 7 by abs from Seattle, Washington USA on Friday, July 23, 2004
Caught this yesterday, began reading last evening. Finished the book by 1am this morning. Great book! I love historical fiction, particularly about women in the church. Maybe that should have clued me into my future profession as a child or even a teenager. This reminded me of my history class in high school in which I wrote a research paper about 13th century abbesses who were very powerful. It's funny how I couldn't have even dreamed of a woman pope then, but now, having been to Rome and studied a lot more church history, it seems more plausible.

The book did, however, show Joan to be a bit too perfect. Surely anyone who was pope had to deal with a lot more politicking than what was written about. Joan's motives always seemed pure, which they would if they were hers. It did seem a bit harsh to paint her rival badly, however. In actuality, both probably compromised on their ideals to some extent, just as any human being does.

Once I get the next person's address it will be off in the mail.

Journal Entry 8 by abs at Bookring in Bookring, A Bookring -- Controlled Releases on Saturday, August 14, 2004
Released on Saturday, August 14, 2004 at Bookring in Bookring, A Bookring Controlled Releases.

Finally sent this on... Sorry, I thought I had already sent this off. Wedding plans have clearly addled my brain.

Journal Entry 9 by roadrunner from Spring, Texas USA on Tuesday, August 24, 2004
This just arrived along with another bookring. I'm drowning in bookrings right now but I will get to this asap and then get it moving again!

Journal Entry 10 by roadrunner from Spring, Texas USA on Wednesday, October 13, 2004
First, I apologize for taking so long with this book. Life just kinda got in the way. I enjoyed this book very much. I love historical fiction and this book did not disappoint. I had never heard of Pope Joan and was fascinated with the story, especially the author's notes at the end. This book is off today via Media Mail. Thanks Lpree for sharing!

Journal Entry 11 by reader1107 from Tucson, Arizona USA on Wednesday, October 20, 2004
Received in the mail yesterday after work; will read as soon as I finish the Dionne Quintuplets' book. Thanks!

Released on Saturday, December 11, 2004 at about 10:00:00 AM BX time (GMT-06:00) Central Time (US & Canada) at Enjoy! in Controlled Release, Given to a fellow bookcrosser Controlled Releases.


I never actually got a chance to read this book, because I spent November writing. I will get a copy from the library, though, because my interest is definitely piqued, even though the timing was off!

Mailing out tomorrow to the next person on the list. Thanks for starting this ring!

Journal Entry 13 by mlbish from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania USA on Thursday, January 06, 2005
Received over the holidays. Thank you! I've been wishing to read this book for quite some time. I am slightly backed up on ring books due to the push to finish up at school, but now that my move is behind me, I should make good time on catching up. I will get this one out as soon as I'm finished with it.

Journal Entry 14 by mlbish from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania USA on Saturday, February 05, 2005
Still working on this one. Please be patient as I finish up my thesis. I have a reading vacation planned for right after I turn it in. Thanks guys!

Journal Entry 15 by mlbish from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania USA on Thursday, March 24, 2005
A caution: I review with abandon, never worrying about spoilers. I have no idea what I am going to say yet, so if you hate to be spoiled, you might want to skip my comments until you're finished with the book.

Wow. This was really great. It was definitely a fascinating story and Ms. Cross certainly does make a strong case for the true existence of a female pope in her Author's Note. If anyone suffers from a tendency to skip stuff like author's notes, etc., I strongly encourage you to read this one. It's fascinating! (Plus you'll get to see a picture of a papal potty chair--how many can say they've seen that?!?!)

Pope Joan was certainly a well-paced novel. It clipped right along. It finished a lot stronger than it began, in my opinion. And perhaps that is because Joan's perception and point of view changed as she aged. In the beginning of the book, the characters seemed to lack complexity. They were either 'good guys' or 'bad guys'. That is, admittedly, the way a child sees the world. By the time Joan progressed to Rome, this tendency had, for the most part, disappeared, and the story better because of it. I appreciate the author's efforts to keep her story as true to actual history as possible. In my reading about this book, I have not run across any complaints about its historical accuracy, and Ms. Cross is very open about the liberties she chose to take in her notes. For that reason, I feel as though I have learned a great deal about the ninth century while being charmed and fascinated by Joan's story. It is a very striking time in history, and I definitely would like to read more about it.

I felt that the author did leave quite a bit of work up to her readers in terms of background and historical context. She was not hugely forthcoming with explicit historical background information. The reader was expected to realize that Carolus Magnus is Charlemagne, and know something about the political geography of the Frankish empire (I had to consult my Atlas of World History on that one!) One also had to discover the meanings of many of the...terms of the times, for lack of a better word, from context (though I suppose some would have been in a dictionary, had I been diligent enough to check). I do appreciate Ms. Cross's confidence in me, which must have been well-founded because I didn't have any trouble understanding what she was writing about. I suppose I appreciate a work of fiction that assumes some education on the part of its readers! But I was frustrated by one thing: Where the heck's the map?!?! That would have been nice.

I did find Joan's consistently superior intelligence slightly irksome at times. It reminded me of Wilbur Smith's Taita character. On occasion, it just became a little excessive. Joan invented intinction, which then spread across the Frankish empire to Rome where she was able to endorse it as pope? That's a bit much. The tendency of characters from the past to reappear was a little hard to swallow as well. Joan's rescue by Arn was acceptable, but the reappearance of Marioza at the end was just a bit too much. Her usefulness as a moral and foreshadowing device was not quite subtle enough.

I have to admit that I was surprised by the ending. I found myself hoping that Joan and Gerold could find a way to be happy together. I suppose my constant wondering about how this would play out added to the suspense of the novel. I appreciate the slight twistiness at the end. Always a good way to end your book. :-)

Thank you so much for sharing this one, Lpree. I really enjoyed it and I'm so glad I had the chance to read it. I apologize for keeping it so long. I appreciate everyone's patience with me during this challenging time in my life! I am armed with lorelei03's address, and she seems very excited to receive the book, so I will mail it out tomorrow.

Journal Entry 16 by Lorelei03 from Flushing, New York USA on Monday, April 04, 2005
Rcvd this in the mail and am so quickly almost through! The current Pope passed away right when I rcvd this book, so it has been intersting to read the book while at the same time learning through the papers quite a bit about the modern papacy.

Journal Entry 17 by reader1107 from Tucson, Arizona USA on Tuesday, April 19, 2005
Arrived safe and sound (again!) today! This time I really will read it! Thank you so much for sending it along!

Released 14 yrs ago (9/29/2005 UTC) at Enjoy! in Controlled Release, Given to a fellow bookcrosser -- Controlled Releases



This was really an awesome book! Dad was a bit on the scary side! And the whole thought that girls weren't smart enough to learn to read ...!

There's no excuse for my having the book this long, and I humbly apologize!! I even offer any of my availables as a RABCK! But the book is finally on its way home!

Journal Entry 19 by Lpree from Omaha, Nebraska USA on Thursday, December 01, 2005
Oops! Sorry, I forgot to log this back in as having arrived home. Thank you everyone for participating! I hope you enjoyed the book!

I've lent this to a co-worker to read, but will probably mark it as available after that.

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