For Thy Great Pain Have Mercy on My Little Pain

Frank Cottrell-Boyce at The Guardian:

This is an extraordinary novel about two extraordinary women, the books they wrote and how those books survived. In 1934, while looking for a ping pong ball in the house of Lieutenant Colonel William Butler-Bowdon, a guest stumbled upon the only complete manuscript of The Book of Margery Kempe. Butler-Bowdon threatened to throw it on the bonfire, saying “then we may be able to find ping pong balls and bats when we want them”. Fortunately he changed his mind, and the manuscript of the earliest English autobiography is now safely in the British Library.

Born in 1373, one-time brewer Margery Kempe had visions of Christ which set her off on a series of rambunctious, incident-packed pilgrimages to the Holy Land, Santiago de Compostela and Prussia. She dressed in white, like a virgin, despite having at least 14 children. She was tried for heresy several times but always managed to successfully rebut the charges. In her debut novel Victoria MacKenzie has distilled this chaotic, episodic rampage of a life into a beautifully lucid account of a spiritual adventure. The Margery who emerges is boastful, vulnerable, courageous, confused, mouthy, libidinous, attentive and impossible not to love.

more here.