As part of my 2015 Reading Challenge I have just completed my first book. The Book of Margery Kempe is something I originally came across during my first year at university – I studied History and in my first year I did a module on the medieval period: we studied several biographies and accounts of individuals, complementing them with broader studies of the period as a whole. The medieval period was never a specialism of mine, but I really enjoyed this module, and when I saw Margery mentioned on Twitter I remembered that I never did read her entire book, so I decided to rectify that.
Margery Kempe (c. 1373-c. 1440) was a wife, mother and businesswoman in Norfolk, who later in life, after experiencing madness and visions, was called to the spiritual life, experiencing visions and tears and undertaking pilgrimages to Europe and the Holy Land. Her Book, the earliest surviving autobiography in English (the manuscript was only discovered in 1934), was dictated, as she herself could not read or write.
It’s different from your usual autobiography, focusing more on the spiritual side of Kempe’s feelings and experiences. However it’s hard not to admire her determination as she faces opposition, criticism and conflict at every turn – even accounting for the fact that if I’d known her I would probably have found her quite irritating!
Not a light read, but interesting for anyone hoping for insight into the mind of someone who lived during the medieval period.