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England, 1141

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womeninworldhistory.com

Other Gods-The Averillan Chronicles

by Barbara Reichmuth Geisler

Here is yet another story featuring a medieval nun! This time it’s Dame Averilla, infirmaress of the Benedictine abbey at Shaftesbury, and in a sense the whole convent as more than one member is drawn into the plot. What is new is the story’s revelations about power struggles between the Church and surviving “pagan” beliefs, brought dramatically to the surface by the town’s witch Galiena. Also interesting are the clashes between nuns of the conquered Anglo-Saxons and those of the new Norman elite. While Geisler does a superb job describing convent habits and 12th century England dwellings and habits, at times this information overwhelms the story. Also off putting are some of the characters repeated flights of fancy and fearful sightings, presented usually in short declarative phrases. “She was alone. And had lost the path. Where did they go? Which way? Fie on all men! ‘No, Averilla may not go! Just a woman!” And so forth.

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