Book Brief: Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross

Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross

  • Audible Audio Edition
  • Listening Length: 19 hours and 24 minutes
  • Program Type: Audiobook
  • Version: Unabridged
  • Publisher: Recorded Books
  • Release Date: September 24, 2009

Barbara Rosenblat (Narrator)

My Review (3 Stars: Liked it)

I listened to Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross.  It is about a women, in the 9th century who becomes the Pope.  It is historical fiction that has gotten high marks, but I struggled getting started with it.  However, even though it has difficult vocabulary and even many words in Latin, I enjoyed the story and wondered how much of it is based on believed truths.  Almost toward the end, I was compelled to look up information about this pope and got a clue to how the story ended.

At the center of this novel is the stark contrast between men and women’s places in society.

The narrator had a gruff voice and I wasn’t sure I liked it.  However, she did represent the various character’s voices distinctly which helped in following the narration.

There is a movie based on this novel, that got less than stellar marks.

Movie Trailer

The legendary tale of how an in travesto woman briefly became pope during the ninth century gets a disappointingly dull workout in “Pope Joan.” Despite a game lead perf by Teuton thesp Johanna Wokalek, and handsome widescreen production values, this German-led big-budgeter — shot in English and adapted from the bestseller by Donna Woolfolk Cross — drifts along in neutral like a cut-down miniseries. Lack of any dramatic momentum in the spotty script and arch dialogue make “Joan” pretty much D.O.A. in Anglo markets, though a dubbed version has converted more than 1 million since its Oct. 22 release in Deutschland.” – Derek Elley – Variety 2009

Pope Joan, which depicts a female pontiff rumoured to have existed in the ninth century, has been criticised by the Roman Catholic Church for its ‘extremely limited vision’ – The Gaurdian


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  1. Interesting, I don’t think I am feeling called to read or listen to it but an interesting premise. Yes I be a woman’s lot in society stood out, although in some ways not too different now!

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