Saturday, July 30, 2016

Luther and Katharina by Jody Hedlund

Wow! Jody Hedlund really undertook a challenge when she decided to write a historical fiction book about Martin Luther, credited with starting the Reformation.  Not being a Lutheran, I have the bare bones knowledge of Luther, feared getting fiction mixed up with fact in my mind, and so I steered away from this book for a while.  But I kept seeing the book's intriguingly beautiful cover on Facebook, book websites, and blog postings, and I was drawn to it.  You know that old saying about a woman being behind every successful man?  I figured Katharina and Luther's love story would follow that pattern, and it did somewhat.  Curiosity and the attractive book cover did their work, and  I kept thinking about the book.

I finally made the decision to read the book when it won a 2016 Christy Award for Historical Romance.  I usually try to read as many of the nominated Christy books and winners as I can each year.  I figured if the critics liked the book, then the combination of fact and fiction was not too disturbing to them, and I would take a chance.  As I have started to do with most historical fiction books, I began by reading the author's afterward.  I found this often gives me a clearer view of what has been researched and was has been invented.  Hedlund shared which characters were historical and which were inventions.  I was a bit disappointed that a couple major events in the story were invented (Katharina's capture and return to the convent) but overall Hedlund has done a superb job of portraying the chaos of the time.  Peasant against nobility; Rome against reformers, the multitude of nuns and monks who left their cloistered lives but did not have places to go or livelihoods.  The lack of freedom and power that women had certainly stood out in Katharina's portrayal. The story begins after Luther has already written most of his proclamations against the church.  His writings have been banned and demands made for his capture and death.  Followers of reform have already been martyred. While those events were made clear in the book, Luther's actual portrayal does not delve deeply into them.  They are presented as already part of his being/  We do not see the thinking that motivated him to take such radical actions against the church, but we are given amble exposure to examples of abuse, greed, and desire for power --- those things he spoke against.  I would be interested in hearing how others reacted to this book.  Do you think that this was an accurate portrayal of the couple?  Were you disappointed that more time was not spent on how Luther turned away from the Catholic faith and spoke for change?  

I've always liked Hedlund's works in the past; mostly I have read her stories of early Michigan which feel so much like early Northern Wisconsin.  After finishing LUTHER AND KATHARINA, I think I may next find a copy of her NEWTON AND POLLY about John Newton who wrote Amazing Grace when it releases in September.

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