Mary Sharratt in #litchatOn Friday, January 11, 2012, author Mary Sharratt joins us in #litchat to discuss her new novel, Illuminations: A Novel of Hildegard von Bingen. With stunning prose dripping with scholarly insight, Sharratt introduces to contemporary readers the heartrending and still inspiring story of a 12th century Benedictine abbess, prophet and polymath given to the Church at the age of eight to serve as handmaiden to Jutta, a fanatical young noblewoman in spiritual seclusion at a German monastery. Given to visions from an early age, Hildegard became renowned throughout the region for prophecies and mystical experiences. Walled away from the world for 30 years with Jutta and her covy of handmaidens, after Jutta’s death, Hildegard breaks free of the cocoon of seclusion to become the most important advocate of women the Church has yet to see.

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Following her release from the anchorage at Disibodenburg, Hildegard composed a body of sacred music that is still performed and enjoyed today. Her nine books on subjects as diverse as theology, natural science, medicine, and human sexuality put many of her male contemporaries to shame. She founded two convents and became an outspoken critic of political and ecclesiastical corruption. Controversial and confrontational, her excommunication from the Church lead her closer to God.

Combining fiction, history, and Hildegardian philosophy, Illuminations presents an arresting portrait of a woman of faith and power—a visionary in every sense of the word.

Mary Sharratt is an American writer who lives with her Belgian husband in the Pendle region of Lancashire, England, the setting for her acclaimed 2010 novel,Daughters of the Witching Hill, which recasts the Pendle Witches of 1612 in their historical context as cunning folk and healers. Previously she lived for 12 years in Germany. This, along with her interest in sacred music and herbal medicine, inspired her to write  Illuminations: A Novel of Hildegard von Bingen.

Winner of the 2005 WILLA Literary Award and a Minnesota Book Award Finalist, Mary has also written the acclaimed novels Summit Avenue (Coffee House 2000),The Real Minerva (Houghton Mifflin 2004), The Vanishing Point (Houghton Mifflin 2006), and co-edited the subversive fiction anthology Bitch Lit (Crocus Books 2006), which celebrates female anti-heroes—strong women who break all the rules. Her short fiction has been published in Twin Cities Noir (Akashic Books 2006).

Follow Mary Sharratt on Twitter: MarySharratt.

View the Illuminations book trailer: Illuminations.

Mary writes regular articles for Historical Novels Review and Solander on the theme of writing women back into history. When she isn’t writing, she’s usually riding her spirited Welsh mare through the Lancashire countryside.