I’ve always loved history. But, frankly, medieval and early modern history have always bored me. I think it’s the jumble of all the similar pope and king names. I mean, really, 16 (or more) Louis-es? How many Innocents? I get lost in the details.
But, reading Luther and Katharina by Jody Hedlund reminded me once again that history isn’t simply a confusing compilation of names, wars, and dates. It’s a story of people just like you and me who faced extraordinary problems in extraordinary ways. That’s the story told in this book.
Martin Luther is the most wanted man in Germany. Having nailed his 95-Theses to the Wittenburg Church door several years earlier, the ex-monk has sparked a Reformation that has revolutionized life in medieval Germany. He’s happy doing God’s work and bringing the Truth of the Gospel to the people of his homeland. But, his life becomes complicated when a group of nuns – escaped from their abbey at Monteclaire – enter his life. Now, on top of his other duties, Luther has to find husbands for all the ex-sisters.
Luther doesn’t run into any problems until he faces off with Katharina von Bora, the sister of noble birth. Katharina is dead set on marrying someone of her social status, in an attempt to regain the luxury she was denied as a child. She is headstrong and determined, a perfect match for Luther. Slowly, the Reformer finds his physical attraction to Katharina growing. He vowed he would never marry and had determined to be like Paul and live a single life devoted to the Lord. But, he is losing control.
Katharina has endured much heartache. Her father abandoned her to the abbey at a young age, and there she grew up in the care of her aunt, Sister Lena. After hearing the teachings of Martin Luther as a 20-something, Katharina realizes she wants a different lifestyle than what is offered her in the abbey. She wants a family and a husband. She leads a group of nuns on a nighttime escapade from the abbey and away from the cruel Abott Baltzazar (whom you will quickly learn to despise, I assure you). As Katharina adjusts to her new life outside of the abbey, she is faced with the realization that finding a husband to care for her will not be an easy thing. She is 26 (considered rather old at her time for marriage), and without a dowry, she is not the most desirable prospect for a bride. That is, to all except Martin Luther.
What I loved about this story is that Katharina and Martin Luther were so…real. Katharina is headstrong and very proud, but she is no weakling. She’s got guts, and she’s not going to let any man make her do something she doesn’t want to do. One of the things that annoys the daylights out of me is a weepy heroine. Katharina only cries one time, that I can recall. As for Luther, he is courageous and dedicated. But, he’s also awkward and clumsy. He says stupid stuff to the people he loves and hates himself for it later. These two characters, along with the supporting cast, really make this story the gripping tale that it is.
While I was enthralled with this story, there was one thing I thought could have been toned down. The story has a lot of sensual scenes, and Hedlund describes (although not graphically) the desire both Katharina and Luther feel for one another. While I would have been OK with this if it had shown up every once and a while, the whole story is littered with examples like this. With that in mind, I would not recommend this book for readers under 15 or so. While Hedlund never ventures into anything graphic or too, well, too, I felt that she focused a little too much on the physical desires of Katharina and Luther.
All in all, though, I enjoyed this book. Its historical accuracy and delightful characters sucked me in from the beginning. This book has allowed me to view Martin Luther’s life in a completely different, more human aspect. A must read for history buffs!
Note: This book was provided by Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.