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For Thy Great Pain Have Mercy On My Little Pain

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I even, in my misguided youth, took part in a couple of pilgrimages to Walsingham, carrying a 10ft wooden cross on foot from Nottingham through Holy Week, sleeping on church hall floors and spending the evenings singing bawdy songs and drinking too much beer.

Peccato che per le prime 141 pagine di 170 non succede niente, solo allora le due si incontrato, fino a quel momento riporta in maniera del tutto monotona i loro pensieri. That these two women’s experiences have been preserved is a miracle, and in animating them with such vibrancy, MacKenzie gestures also to the multitudinous others that have gone unrecorded. Many were the holy dialogues shared between the anchorite and the woman through their communion in the love of our Lord Jesus Christ during the days they spent together. In "Abbi pietà del mio piccolo dolore", Victoria MacKenzie dà spazio a entrambi gli aspetti -quello cristiano e quello umano- di due donne che vissero nell'Inghilterra quattrocentesca: Margery Kempe e Julian di Norwich.But nowadays, we would doubtless question her mental health – likewise for Julian when you learn that her shewings arose from a time of fevered hallucination. in which she imagines the meeting between Margery Kempe and Julian of Norwich, two great, but wildly different, English mystics -- IRINA DUMITRESCU * TLS, Summer books 2023 * A beautiful book. At the last Eucharist our course held at Belsey Bridge Conference Centre in Suffolk, I spoke about the large painting that hung behind the altar in the chapel there. So one is cloistered and the other the subject of gossip and innuendo; one is set apart from the world and the other rubs the world’s face in the Word. Can it be that Julian, far more mentally stable, who married for love and felt real sorrow at the death of her husband and only baby, counselled her visitor in language and imagery that fitted with her world?

Very accessible and with alternating points of view, it presents the lives of women during that century where reading and writing were skills unavailable to most. Though the two may appear in some respects polar opposites - the one reserved, learned, spiritual and wise, the other boastful, illiterate and part-worldly - they are united by experiences of faith and of social context. From a wealthy background, her life had been marked by tragedy losing many members of her family, including her beloved husband and child, to the waves of pestilence that swept through the fourteenth century. But they are living in a moment when any deviation from orthodoxy can provoke a terrible punishment.

My second novel, about the Victorian art critic and social reformer John Ruskin, will be published by Bloomsbury in 2025. However, the clever choice to juxtapose Margery’s story with Julian’s allows us to take her on her own terms rather than having to read her as a symbol of how all medieval merchant women engaged with religious faith.

By this means the author reveals to us the inner workings and spiritual struggles of these two women whilst bringing the tale of their lives to the moment when they meet each other, enter into conversation and, through the veiled window of Julian’s cell, find a strange unity of faith.These two real life women are imagined with all the colour and noise that the era invokes, and along the way we learn a great deal about a woman’s lot back then. They were the anchoress (or religious hermit) Julian of Norwich, whose Revelations of Divine Love is the earliest surviving book written in English by a woman, and Margery Kempe, the Christian mystic whose dictated autobiography is the first ever to have been written in English by man or woman. Mary Wellesley has written an excellent book about medieval manuscripts in which both feature prominently, and now, at least, there are decent paperback editions of the books by Julian and Kempe which had such a tumultuous history. In an afterword to this striking, elegant novel, Victoria MacKenzie sets out the elevator-pitch version. Butler-Bowdon threatened to throw it on the bonfire, saying “then we may be able to find ping pong balls and bats when we want them”.

An interesting look at the lives and faith of two medieval women, neither of which I had heard of before. But while their writings about mysticism have always fascinated me, the women themselves have often felt remote.I think it would be a tremendous discussion piece for a book club type event, or even just coffee chats.

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