Book #35

How To Be a Medieval Woman by Margery Kempe

Brave, outspoken and guaranteed to annoy people wherever she went - including exasperated fellow pilgrims in Jerusalem and her long-suffering husband - Margery Kempe was one of the most vivid and unforgettable voices of the Middle Ages. Whether travelling alone, getting herself arrested or having visions of marrying Jesus, Margery repeatedly defied feminine convention - and also managed to compose the first autobiography in English, despite being unable to read or write. 

Margery Kempe was an incredibly pious woman in medieval times, and believed she had a higher personal connection to God than other people. Despite being unable to read or write, she compiled an autobiography entirely through diction on her spiritual experiences. It is from this book that Penguin have taken excerpts to comprise How To Be a Medieval Woman.

Being entirely without religion, something of a cynic, and in desperate need of something to get my teeth into, I couldn’t connect whatsoever with Kempe and her spiritual ramblings. Her narrative is extremely heavy and tedious, her superiority irking, and her deep devotion (which I imagine is supposed to be inspiring) feels like a telling off.

The blurb and title very much portray this little book as being filled with social commentary on how medieval women spent their days. I’m convinced Kempe was one of few medieval women with a speed dial to heaven, so Penguin has yet again failed in this collection for me.

Another little black slog.