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I, Julian: The fictional autobiography of Julian of Norwich

On sale

13th April 2023

Price: £18.99

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Selected: Hardcover / ISBN-13: 9781399807524

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‘I was completely hooked and considerably moved by the life and thoughts of this exceptional woman’
– JEREMY IRONS

‘It is as if we have finally found the lost autobiography of one of the medieval world’s most important women.’

– JANINA RAMIREZ

‘A beautiful, intensely moving achievement’

– A.N. WILSON

In 1347, the first pestilence rages across the land. The young Julian of Norwich encounters the strangeness of death: first her father, then later her husband and her child. When she falls ill herself, she encounters mystical visions that bring comfort and concern. But in the midst of suspicion and menace, when the Church is actively condemning heretics, Julian is not safe.

I, Julian is the account of a medieval woman who dares to tell her own story.

Battling grief, plague, the church and societal expectations, and compelled by her powerful visions, Julian finds a way to live a life of freedom – as an anchoress, bricked up in a small room on the side of a church. Helped by Thomas, a Benedictine monk from Norwich Cathedral, she writers of what she has seen and offers word of counsel to others. Julian’s manuscripts are protected by trusted sisters and are passed from hand to hand, become the first book to be written by a woman in English.

Tender, luminous, meditative and powerful, this is a powerful fictional retelling of the life of Julian of Norwich – the mother, mystic and radical.

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Reviews

Janina Ramirez, historian, author and broadcaster, Oxford University
What a wonderful book! It is as if we have finally found the lost autobiography of one of the medieval world's most important women. Julian's voice rings out true on every page and a deep understanding of her world and her work underpins each line. It is a joy to read.
Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury, Magdalene College, University of Cambridge
There have been a few other writers who have tried to fill out the human hinterland of Julian of Norwich's Revelations of Divine Love?, but I can't think of any who have done so quite as persuasively and richly as this. Written with profound insight, spiritual and psychological, and a rare sensitivity to the everyday world of the fourteenth century, it is a brilliantly illuminating companion to one of the greatest works of spiritual writing in English.
Sarah Sands
Claire Foster-Gilbert inhabits Julian of Norwich in the way that Hilary Mantel immersed herself in Cromwell. This is living fiction.
Jeremy Irons
I was completely hooked and considerably moved by the life and thoughts of this exceptional woman
Nicholas Watson, Harvard University
. . . extraordinarily deft and sensitive. This book is going to introduce many new readers to Julian and inspire others who know her slightly to go back with fresh eyes and a reinvigorated sense of how her writing developed and in what sort of historical setting. It really is a striking book, and an impressive achievement.
Julia Neuberger
I, Julian, is a tour de force, a rich reimagining of the life of Julian of Norwich and a disturbing evocation of the life of the merchant class in Norwich in the fourteenth century
Paula Gooder
This is a rich and intriguing book, which is profoundly thought-provoking and helps the reader to get to know Julian in an entirely new way
Santha Bhattacharji, Fellow Emeritus, St Benet’s Hall, University of Oxford
both gripping and profoundly believable
A. N. Wison
'Claire Gilbert has written a freshly modern fiction about the famous mystic which lives and breathes the life of the fourteenth century: the stench and terror of plague; the intolerance of the late medieval church. Even more remarkably, she has plausibly drawn the inner prayer-life, the self-doubt, the loneliness and the quiet faith of this great genius. It is a beautiful, intensely moving achievement which not only excites literary admiration: it renews the reader's faith that 'all shall be well'.
Church Times
Her novel's appeal comes from the care with which she places her story in its historical context.
Daily Telegraph
Brilliantly inventive
Mark Patrick Hederman, OSB
Claire has brought Julian of Norwich to life in the most miraculous way
Spectator
The clarity of the prose is striking, as is the ultimate serenity of Julian's contemplation.