[Review] Julian of Norwich: A Very Brief History by Janina Ramirez

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Over six hundred years ago a woman known as Julian of Norwich wrote what is now regarded as one of the greatest works of literature in English. Based on a sequence of mystical visions she received in 1373, her book is called Revelations of Divine Love.

Julian lived through an age of political and religious turmoil, as well as through the misery of the Black Death, and her writing engages with timeless questions about life, love and the meaning of suffering. But who was Julian of Norwich? And what can she teach us today?

Medievalist and TV historian Janina Ramirez invites you to join her in exploring Julian’s remarkable life and times, offering insights into how and why her writing has survived, and what we can learn from this fourteenth-century mystic whose work lay hidden in the shadows of her male contemporaries for far too long

This little book, a brief history of the Anchoress Julian of Norwich, is an utter delight. Dr Janina Ramirez takes us through a study of Julian’s life in her little cell and the book that she wrote whilst locked away from the world.

It really is a brief history at just over 80 pages but every page is full of knowledge. Ramirez writes with passion and it truly seeps through in her words, just as her enthusiasm for Julian came through in her recent television documentary.

The book is in sections with a short study of each topic – there’s sections on Julian’s life and then sections on her wonderful book “Revelations of Divine Love” which go into the meaning, the philosophy etc. Whilst there isn’t all that much information on Julian’s life before she was locked away, Ramirez takes us through the possibilities of who she could have been by dissecting “Revelations of Divine Love” – she could well have been a mother, given the way she writes. Was she a member of the nobility beforehand? Ramirez examines that by looking at records of those in Norwich who have the name Julian, coming to the conclusion that Julian of Norwich probably was this person in the records.

This little book is full of fascinating facts as well as scholarly study. It is an utter delight to read and is a book I will certainly be coming back to.

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