Author Claire Gilbert
Publisher Hodder & Stoughton £18.99
A novel about an obscure 14th-century lady who spent most of her life in solitary confinement does not seem to be promising territory. But the lady is Julian of Norwich and the author is Claire Gilbert, fine writer and wise theologian, who succeeds splendidly in bringing the mysterious Julian to vibrant life. We follow Julian’s entire story from earliest childhood, when the Black Death struck her family, through marriage and motherhood – when another outbreak of plague left her a lonely widow. After receiving divine visions during her own near-fatal illness, she found her vocation as a hermit, bricked up forever in a cell adjacent to St Julian’s church. Here she was inspired to write Revelations of Divine Love, the spiritual manual we value to this day. Gilbert paints a vivid picture of medieval religious tension when fear of death and hell dominated people’s minds. Her triumph is to demonstrate how Julian left her negative childhood faith to become an assured theologian, utterly convinced that God’s wrath had been replaced by Christ’s overwhelming compassion and love on the cross. Highly recommended.
Reviewed by KATE BURTON