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Thursday, July 23, 2015

Luther and Katharina--Reformers Looking for Love

Luther and KatharinaLuther and Katharina by Jody Hedlund
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An absolutely riveting novel about Martin Luther, an Augustinian monk, whose troubles with both the Pope and The Holy Roman Emperor seemed to preclude a chance at married life and love and the establishment of a family. At the age of 40 he becomes enamoured of a nun, Katharina von Bora, whom he has inspired to reject her Cistercian vows and whom he assists to escape her convent. She is 24 and has been cloistered since the age of 5 and he has been celibate all his life. She has brought eight other nuns with her and over time he manages to arrange marriages or placements in families for all but Katharina.

Though the struggle of these two to find love and compatibility runs throughout the story, the facts of Luther's attempts at Reformation of the Catholic Church, while eluding the enemies who would kill him are well presented. He is conservative in the demands he makes for changes but as in many movements that have a wide following there are those who become more fanatical. Their activities result in widespread vandalism, murder, rape and plunder known as the Peasants' Revolt. Luther is horrified by the rampage and tries to mediate between the peasants and their masters, eventually siding with the nobility. The description of these historically accurate events is presented in a very readable and enjoyable form.

The fact that the story is bolstered with appearances of actual personages such as Luther's closest friends, Melanchthon, who, though married himself does not want Luther to marry and thus become distracted from the work at hand. Interesting holdover from the Church's policy of priestly celibacy under the same premise. The paintings I've seen of Melanchthon make him seem to be the handsome man that the author paints Luther, though his paintings do not support the written description. I'm glad I looked at them after reading the book. Justus Jonas, with his humor and almost sibling ability to kid Luther, is a delight. Along with Martin and Katharina these two are the most well fleshed out characters though several of the others, less prominent, have distinguishing traits that ring true.

As the author states in her closing notes, the plot of the story and the backgrounds of the players are all true. What she has done is create scenarios that are her imaginings of the interactions of the couple on a personal level and some possible situations in which they may have found themselves. It is a novel after all and not an historical treatise and as such it was entertaining, informative and a delightful read.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review---an ARC

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