Monday, September 23, 2013

Author Highlight - Mary Sharratt

I recently heard an author's name that I had never read before - Mary Sharratt. I am not sure how it works for other folks but when I hear a new author mentioned the first thing I do is go onto my local public library's web page, find the author, and request every book by that particular author that the library owns. I did the same with Sharratt. One of the bonuses of Sharratt is her affiliation with Minnesota - she is originally from Minnesota and some of her works highlight places and histories particular to Minnesota and especially the Twin Cities (Minneapolis & St. Paul). As a non-native of Minnesota who has transplanted here I thought I could get a two in one deal, read a new author and learn some Minnesota history through historical fiction.

Sharratt's work deal with women…female heroines, female protagonist, and strong women from history. She is a good writer who is able to create characters that are robust while weaving a story that captivates. The first two books I read, The Real Minerva and Summit Avenue, are historical fiction novels that, while not based on a true story, are based on historical facts and time period in Minnesota. Illuminations is based on the life of Hildegard von Bingen a Benedictine Abbess, visionary, and polymath from the Middle Ages.The Vanishing Point is also historical fiction based on England and America in the mid 1600's to the early 1700's. I also grabbed Daughters of the Witching Hill which is based on the true story of the Pendle Witch Hunt of 1612 in England. Each book develops and highlights the lives of a woman or multiple women and gives the reader a glimpse into what is was like to be a woman and oftentimes a woman of ill repute at that time.

My favorite read thus far has been Illuminations, although all have been worth the read. I am fascinated by the Saints, especially women, and the middle ages specifically. I so enjoy reading a work of fiction that also gives me historical facts I can research and build upon. Illuminations was just such a book. Hildegard von Bingen was forced to be an anchorite alongside a wealthy young woman as her serving girl and under her tutelage. An anchorite is a person who lives in seclusion for religious purposes. Hildegard was walled (literally bricked in) into a two room space within a Monastery and lived that way for around 30 years until her patronage passed away. Now, living a busy life as an introvert and lover of learning, I must confess that once in awhile the idea of seclusion with a library at my disposal sounds wonderful, but to be forced to live in two rooms for thirty years - that is unimaginable. Yet, out of such an existence came a woman who was strong and who stood up for justice. It is truly a remarkable story.

I am curious what local authors Saranac Lake has? Any that you can recommend for me to pick up? Any favorites for the community that are necessarily local? If you are interested in learning more about Mary Sharratt and her works you can find more information here:

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