Easily one of the best books I’ve read this year.
Katharina is a sprawling, immersive and meticulously researched account of the early years of Katharina Von Bora, the fascinating and little-known woman who became the wife of Martin Luther, the German priest who triggered the Protestant Reformation, in 1525.
Drawing heavily on the limited facts that are actually known of Katharina’s life, and told with compassion, historical clarity, and incredible insight, the author constructs a fictionalized world of Saxony (Germany) in the 1500’s that is impossible to step away from.
In a time and context that considers girls born to families without the capacity to post large dowries and thus obtain successful marriages as burdensome economic liabilities, the facts of Katharina’s childhood and subsequent upbringing , heartbreakingly difficult to read in parts, were sadly not that uncommon.
As a protagonist Katharina is intelligent, musical, thoughtful, and at the same time, deeply religious. She is also a girl, a person of her times, desperately insecure and struggling to find inner peace in a world in which very little of what she experiences is an act of choice or free will.
“Outwardly serene, inwardly I pray a final anguished prayer that one day I may prove worthy”
Without giving too much of the plot away (no spoilers here) before reading this book I knew nothing of the story behind Katharina’s rise to adulthood, occurring in parallel with the initial stirrings of the Reformation in Germany, (and subsequently around the world) and once I felt the first inescapable pull to enter her world, I absolutely could not put this book down.
Across the centuries, Katharina’s experiences of love and loss, life-altering decisions, dependance, fear, friendship and betrayal, – more dramatic, likely, than most of us experience – are none-the-less instantly relatable and totally engrossing.
“I find it hard to think of myself as a single person rather than as part of a community, and I struggle to choose in even the simplest of situations.”
Heart-breaking, inspiring and informative – this book belongs at the top of the list of any fan of historical fiction.
The first in the “Katharina Luther” series, this book is followed by a recounting of the later years of Katharina’s life. I can’t wait to read more of this series!
A great big thank you to the author, Margaret Skea, for an advance review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts presented are my own.