Book review: Katharina Luther: Nun, Rebel, Wife by Anne Boileau

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  • Publisher:   Clink Street Publishing
  • Publication date:  4th October 2016
  • Genre:  Non-fiction / history
  • Pages:  224 pages

ABOUT THE BOOK:  On 31st October 1517, Martin Luther pinned ninety-five theses on the Castle Church door, Wittenberg, criticizing the Church of Rome; they were printed and published by Lucas Cranach and caused a storm. Nine young nuns, intoxicated by Luther’s subversive writings, became restless and longed to leave their convent. On Good Friday 1523 a haulier smuggled them out hidden in empty herring barrels. Five of them settled in Wittenberg, the very eye of the storm, and one of them – Katharina von Bora – scandalised the world by marrying the revolutionary former monk. Following a near miscarriage, she is confined to her bed to await the birth of their first child; during this time, she sets down her own story. Against a backdrop of 16th Century Europe this vivid account of Katharina von Bora’s early life brings to the spotlight this spirited and courageous woman.

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Polly without BlakeMEET THE AUTHOR:

Anne Boileau studied German in Munich and worked as a translator, interpreter and language teacher, both in England and abroad. In 1985 she took a degree in Rural Resource Development at Writtle Agricultural College after which she worked with various organizations to do with nature conservation, campaigning, giving talks and writing articles about the countryside and the natural world for local publications.

Ten years ago she turned to poetry and learnt a great deal fromGraham Fawcett’s reading workshops at Poetry School; she attended two poetry writing courses with Arvon, one with Carole Satyamurti, the other with Simon Armitage.  Dr. Ronald Blythe of Wormingford, her neighbour and long-time friend, taught her the importance of place, of looking closely at what is all about us, and seeing the wonder in the everyday.

She has published three books under the name of Polly Clarke: Simple Symphony, Assorted Toffees and White Sand, Grey Sand (Orphean Press).  She contributed five translations to a bilingual anthology of German and French poetry entitled Over the Water with the Camden Mews Translators (Hearing Eye 2007).  She now writes (and translates) poetry under her maiden name of Anne Boileau.     Website 

REVIEW:

It takes real talent to take a historical figure and make them come alive. Anne Boileau has vividly recreated the life of Katharina Luther from the time of her childhood, her subsequent enclosure as a nun and later on as a young woman desperately trying to adapt to life outside the convent.

The time she lives in is perilous as religious upheaval and change are overturning long-held traditions and beliefs.  Her decision to follow Martin Luther and reject Church doctrine causes her years of anguish.

This is not a dry re-telling of Katharina’s life but a tender and moving courtship story between a compelling and fiery orator who happens to be shy and uncertain when he must convince this former nun and woman he admires to become his life’s partner.  Katherina, practical and realistic, understands the role she must play in Luther’s life.  Together they learn compromise and enjoy a marriage that satisfies them both.

The author writes beautifully and convincingly.  This was not an easy subject to tackle and I admire the way she has succeeded in bringing Katherine to life.

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