How I loved this book! How refreshing to read about a Saint who was a continual source of irritation to everyone around her! From her sharp tongue to her noisy weeping (which had the effect of instantly emptying churches), People couldn’t flee from her swiftly enough.
Margery Kempe seems to have been one of those unfortunate people who bring bad luck on themselves. This volume reads as a catalogue of disaster, from the unrelenting contempt & ridicule heaped upon her by the people of Bishop’s Lynn in Norfolk (Margery’s home town, now called King’s Lynn), to the way successive landlords evicted her from their properties because her personality had the effect of riling everyone up, to the coldness with which her children greeted her when she returned from Jerusalem, to their glee & relief when she decided to leave on another pilgrimage (to Santiage de Compostela.)
Poor Margery rarely caught a break. The only people who ever supported her were fellow Saint & Mystic Julian of Norwich, and the various strangers she met on her travels. (She made friends easily due to her kind heart.)
Of course, it didn’t help that she was a woman who lived between circa 1373 and 1440. In those days, men treated any woman with the utmost contempt, so a noisily weeping middle-aged woman was not going to play on their sympathies. Things got dangerous for Margery towards the end of this volume when, in 1417, she was accused of Lollardy (an early form of Protestantism.)
Mary Sharratt does wonders with this material, making vivid the dangers a woman faced under Male Rule, when Men could literally do as they liked, including rape their wives. Five stars.