The Heretic’s Wife the story of Kate Gough, the fictional wife of John Frith, who was a refugee during the reign of Henry VIII. Kate is a well-educated, Lutheran-sympathizing woman in Tudor London who meets John Frith, a man accused of being a heretic for translating the Bible into English so that any man may read the word of God. The couple lives most of their lives in Antwerp, where English law, mainly Thomas More, cannot touch them. The story mostly follows Kate’s everyday life, but we occasionally get the insight of Thomas More, the King’s Chancellor who seems obsessed with burning heretics; and Anne Boleyn, the woman Henry VII breaks with Rome for in order to set aside is very Catholic Spanish Queen Katherine. We get a look at how each character is dealing with the religious crisis of the day.
I thought the writing was good. I’m glad Vantrease decided to not only stay with Kate. It gave us a little variety on the thinking of the people of the times. Kate and Anne, for instance are sympathetic to the Lutheran cause. They believe William Tyndale, the man working to translate the Bible into English and distribute it to as many Englishmen as possible, is an inspiration. Why not let every man interpret the Bible for his own? While Thomas More is perhaps the man most strongly against such thought. He believes the Lord is supreme power and that the church has the only right to determine what His words mean. He is hell-bent on burning everyone who says otherwise. I also like that Vantrease decided to write Kate as an educated woman. Most women of the era were illiterate and that would have made for a very boring story.
Kate though was not as revolutionary as I would have liked. Yes she was educated, and yes she kind of dropped everything to help with the cause, but she was still reigned in by need/want for children. I would have thought a woman like Kate would not want the burden of children during such a dangerous time. Which leads me to the other thing I dislike about the book and every other historical fiction book set in this time period. The miscarriage. There is ALWAYS a miscarriage in these books. I’ve read a lot that take place anywhere between the War of the Roses and Elizabethan England and each one has a woman losing a child they so desperately wanted. It just feels cliche at this point.
Overall I enjoyed the book because it’s hard for me to hate a book that is written about the Tudor reign. My favorite era in world history is hard for me to criticize too much.
Terrifying. Powerful. Frankly…. a little disappointing.
A dystopian future in which healthy, fertile women are used for their ovaries. They aren’t allowed to read. They are constantly watched. They are owned by men and the Wives. Sex is obligatory and every woman must pray that she gets pregnant or else face exile or even death. We follow the main character Offred as she negotiates her way through this new world as a handmaid to a powerful Commander. We see her memories of the world before, of the fall, and of her time at the Red Center where she learned to keep her head down and ears open.
The story itself is beautifully written. It has an amazingly powerful message to the world. It’s exhilarating to read. I get nervous when Offred gets nervous. I get angry when Offred gets angry. I cry when she cries. The events within the story are horrifying. One can only imagine what would happen if religious nut-cases ever got that powerful. There is little character development, but the events seem to only happen within a month or two, besides the flashbacks. The only aspect that disappointed was that I feel the story was cut short. We don’t get to find out what happened to Offred. There is no rebellion that takes place. I don’t even really have a clear picture of how that world came to be. I do appreciate the “Historical Notes” because they tell me that the Republic of Gilead remains and is thriving. But, in a way, that makes the ending even more of a bummer. It’s almost as if Atwood was leaving it to continue as a series. Now I have to watch the series on Hulu to help me out.
Although a little short, I recommend to those looking for a good story.
Where did we come from? How did this world come into being? Most of the world’s population would answer those questions with some kind of deity or deities. Gore Vidal’s main character Cyrus Spitama goes further and asks, well who or what created God? Usually when this question is asked the asker will get a very long explanation of the religion in question. Creation is no different. Cyrus Spitama travels all over the ancient world, meets Confucius and the Buddha, and is the highest power in the religion of Zoroastrianism, but even he cannot answer the hardest question.
I like this book for its historical musings. We get to go back to ancient Persia and finally learn about the world through the eyes of a Persian instead of a Greek. That was a novel idea by Vidal. I also enjoyed the different parts of the world that the main character got to visit. I got to learn about more ancient cultures than I thought I would. The religion aspect of the book was enjoyable as well. Getting to hear about said religions from them very men who introduced them was interesting. And I liked that the main character was not swayed one way or another. In fact, the more beliefs he was introduced to, the stronger he favored his own.
There were two things that I was bummed about in this book. One, that it took place so far before the birth of Christianity that the main character did not get to meet any of those religious characters. But I get it. Vidal had to choose what era of history he was going to write in. He could not introduce every religious person. There other thing that bummed me out was, there was so much talk of war in the book, and so many famous battles were alluded to, but we never got to dissect those in detail. I realize that the book is about religion mostly, but why mention the Battle of Marathon if we are not going to hear about it from the men that fought in it?
Overall the book was enjoyable. If you need to read something that takes up a bit of time, this is one for you. I moved fairly slow, but the information was very interesting to soak in.