Katharina: Deliverance (Katharina #1) by Margaret Skea #HistoricalFiction @margaretskea1 #FridayReads

Author: Margaret Skea

Published: October 2017 by Sanderling Books

Category: Historical Fiction, Book Review

Following the death of her mother and her father’s remarriage, five-year-old Katharina is placed in the convent at Brehna. She will never see her father again.

Sixty-five miles away, at Erfurt in Thuringia, Martin Luder, a promising young law student, turns his back on a lucrative career in order to become a monk.

The consequences of their meeting in Wittenberg, on Easter Sunday 1523, will reverberate down the centuries and throughout the Christian world.

Margaret Skea has painted a convincing and sympathetic portrait of Katharina Von Bora, who became the wife of Martin Luther, despite the fact that little is known about her. As the author states: this is a fictionalised account of how her early life might have been. The story is a combination of fiction and the facts gleaned by the author through thorough research.

The selected quotes from Martin Luther at the beginning of each chapter give him substance before he actually appears in the story. With the first quote, heading chapter one, he condemns the heartless practice of avoiding the cost of bringing up a daughter.

It is very shameful that children, especially defenceless young girls, are pushed into the nunneries. Shame on the unmerciful parents who treat their own so cruelly ~ Martin Luther.

When Katharina’s widowed father marries again, it’s obvious from the start the former Frau Seidewitz is not well disposed towards Katharina. She has two boys of her own and, with Katherina’s brothers as well, Katherina is an encumbrance she can do without. Before long, and at just five years old, Katharina is taken from all she has known and deposited at the convent school at Brehna. Several years later, she is transferred to the Marienthron convent near Grimma, where her aunt is the abbess. Marienthron houses a Cistercian order which means Katharina has to learn the rule of silence, how to talk in sign language and the harsh regime of cloistered nuns. She doesn’t totally embrace this way of living and thoughts of life outside the convent are never completely banished.

Despite their isolation from the world, the nuns manage to secretly acquire news from the outside. Change is coming and as the months and years pass, the Reformation, initiated by Martin Luther, a doctor of theology, gains impetus. His stance on what he classes as the imprisonment of women in convents results in several of the nuns, including Katharina, escaping from Marienthron. With the help of Herr Köppe, a merchant and councillor, the nuns are taken on a dangerous journey to Wittenberg and given refuge with families who support Martin Luther, and who help the women with the adjustment in the their lifestyle.

And, as if on cue, we hear the creaking of an axle and the slap of canvas and the clip-clop of two pairs of horses on the track outside. The horses halt and an owl hoots three times. The novice-teacher lifts the latch and as we slip, one by one, through the open gate, I feel the band loosening around my chest and take in great gulps of air.

Set in 16th century Germany, and covering the period from 1505 until Katharina and Martin Luther’s marriage, the dual storyline is written in the present tense from Katharina’s perspective, with tantalising glimpses of her older self. This approach really puts the reader in Katharina’s shoes, so her emotions make more of an impact and the story feels less fictionalised and more realistic. It’s a time of turmoil, not only in the church but politically as well, and we see the discussions, altercations and the ultimate violence through Katharina’s eyes. 

Katharina develops into a strong-minded and intelligent woman, not afraid to air her views. She was one of many motivated by the passion and fire of Martin Luther. His dedication and zeal are apparent, along with his loyalty and kindness to those he counted as friends. Through the author’s wonderfully descriptive prose and extensive research, an era that I knew very little about is brought to life vividly.

I chose to read and review Katharina: Deliverance, based on a copy of the book supplied by the author/publisher.

Book Links ~ Amazon UK | Amazon US

Margaret Skea grew up in Northern Ireland during the ‘Troubles’, but now lives in Scotland. Her passion is for authentic, atmospheric fiction, whether historical or contemporary. An award-winning novelist and short story writer, her credits include: The Beryl Bainbridge Award for Best 1st Time Novelist 2014 (Turn of the Tide), and longlist in the Historical Novel Society New Novel Award 2016 (A House Divided). These novels are the first two in a series of Scottish historical fiction following the fortunes of a fictional family trapped in real events in the 16th century. Her short stories have won or been placed in many competitions, including: Fish, Mslexia, Winchester, Rubery and Neil Gunn.

She is now back to working on the third novel in her Scottish series and hopes to have it and the conclusion of Katharina’s story out next year.

Author links ~  Website | Facebook | Twitter

17 thoughts on “Katharina: Deliverance (Katharina #1) by Margaret Skea #HistoricalFiction @margaretskea1 #FridayReads

      • Hi Evelyn, Katharina’s life divide neatly into two halves – which are quite distinct in every way, so it made sense. It also made sense as otherwise the book would have been about the size of War and Peace – not a terribly popular length these days, aside from the fantasy genre which seems to expect doorstoppers.

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