To start with, I was interested in buying this book because I came across the story of a female pope one time on tumblr. That time, I was completely surprised of the number of citation to which Pope Joan was mentioned. Although, it was confirmed by a lot of historians that her story was fictional, I wanted so badly to read about her and discover how on earth did she manage to live her life disguising as a man.
I mean yes, I’ve seen films like Twelfth Night, She’s the Man and Mulan but I guess the era in which Joan lived is more thrilling because it required more cautiousness from the watchful eyes of the church which was, at that time, the “center of everything”.
The first parts of the book, especially Joan’s stay at Gerold’s felt like I was watching a soap opera filled with hidden feelings and sneaky characters and awkward romantic moments. Though the romantic relationship between Joan and Gerold thankfully did not end up being incestuous, I did not find myself rooting for them.
It wasn’t until the middle part (her adventures as John Anglicus) that I found getting seriously excited that I took many hours of production just so I could finish it. She got this silent but wise attitude too which was so fun to read. But then she was reunited with Gerold and so the excitement falls.
I mean, I do not have anything against their relationship. It’s just so full of unnecessary drama.
Now, Gerold, despite of their loyalty to their obligations, got Joan pregnant. So we have a pregnant pope. And they tried to conceal the baby for the whole 9 months. And one day while having a procession the baby came out. And because everyone was horrified and confused what the fuck was happening, nobody dared to help her and so she died.
But it doesn’t matter whether she was real or not (though deep down I hope she was). The author pointed that out herself saying what matters is that it leaves something to the reader about the capabilities of a woman. Of how far she can go and surpass what’s expected of her. We need these kinds of books so we could understand there’s more to us that the norm is not even ready to see.