Donna Woolfolk Cross
Ms. Hen decided to read this, because again, one of her hen friends gave it to her because she was getting rid of some books. Ms. Hen had heard of this novel many years ago, and she didn’t quite understand how a woman could have become pope. When she read the novel, she became angry over the way women were treated in the Dark Ages.
Joan is not allowed to go to school or learn how to read because she is a girl. All the girls in her village care nothing for books, they only care about gossip and needlework. Her brother Matthew teaches her to read in secret, against their father’s wishes. After Matthew dies, a tutor comes to the house to help teach Joan, and her brother John. Joan is much quicker in her studies than John.
Joan and John escape to go to the schola, or school in another town. The boys at the school torment Joan. The idea of the day is that it is not natural for a woman to want to learn. Joan has a crush on the man with whom she is living, Gerold, a married lord with children. Joan becomes friends with his daughter Gisla, who marries when she is fourteen. Eventually, the town is attacked by Vikings, and everyone is killed, including Gerold’s entire family, but not Gerold. Joan escapes death by concealing herself in the church. Joan steals her brother John’s robe and hides in the woods. She joins a monastery disguised as a man, and becomes a renowned scholar and healer. She finds her way to Rome, and eventually becomes elected Pope.
It made Ms. Hen upset that women of this age were treated so badly. They were not allowed to have property, or any money; they were treated as inferior beings to men, and were not allowed to read and write. If they were married, they were owned by their husbands. Ms. Hen likes to think the world is better now, but the results from the Presidential election make her think otherwise. Twelve hundred years have gone by since the ninth century, but women still don’t have as much power as men.
Pope Joan is a legend, and it is said that no woman has had as much power before or since she was on the throne. A woman could have had that much power, but the citizens of the United States are ignorant wretches who would rather have a fascist as President, and the electoral college system is dysfunctional.
Pope Joan was erased from history because the men in power in that day did not want it to be known that they were fooled by a woman. The only way Joan could have held the office she did was to be disguised as a man.
There are some scattered hens in this novel, but that did not make up for the fact that Ms. Hen was angered by this book. Also, the writing in POPE JOAN is a bit inferior. Ms. Hen has read a lot of books, and there is substantial lacking in the quality of this novel. Ms. Hen thought it could have been because the author was trying to write in the style of the ninth century, but it was more than that. A character dies, and Joan thought, “It was impossible that he was gone.” Ms. Hen expects more from a character when someone important to her dies. Ms. Hen wants her to be devastated, but Joan’s reaction fell flat, like most of the writing in the novel.
Other than inadequate writing, Ms. Hen enjoyed POPE JOAN. It wasn’t the best book she has ever read, but it wasn’t the worst. Ms. Hen thinks POPE JOAN is an important novel, because it shows how far we’ve come, but also how far we have to go.