... stunning ... a fascinating and important story ... It can't be easy to depict religious ecstasies without their seeming nutty, but Sharratt — by turns lofty and gritty in her prose — pulls it off, letting us choose for ourselves whether Margery Kempe was the real deal. Knowing what we know now about the human psyche, curated history and Church politics, I'm inclined to think — thanks to Sharratt's thorough research and compelling narrative — that she was.
Throughout Sharratt’s compelling novel, Margery’s...persistence will charm readers ... Sharratt captures Margery’s mysticism beautifully, even for this skeptical reader ... Her trail is littered with snarling priests and jealous men who want to restrict her movement, claim her body, or snuff out her potentially heretical thoughts. These men can feel like masked demons in a pageant, spitting out venom for the pleasure of it. But in Margery’s first-person narrative, the superficial malevolence seems appropriate, a reflection of her victimization in a world unwilling to accommodate female agency.
Sharatt tackles Margery’s adventures with a lively earnestness ... While the ahistorical usage of beata viscera can be justified in the context of Margery’s experiences, other anachronistic slippages are harder to reconcile...Others pose more substantial distractions. Taken together, they make Sharratt’s Middle Ages feel somewhat threadbare, contemporary sensibilities abrading her historical worldbuilding ... the world of Revelations is skillfully set-dressed, its players lavishly — and appropriately — costumed. When it comes to the sensory details, Sharratt’s prose is fine-grained and full-bodied, rendering the textures and odors that made up a 15th-century life ... Sharratt’s grip on historical verisimilitude, however, often slackens when it comes to the contents of her painstakingly attired heroine’s mind ... The musings that Sharratt places in Margery’s mouth belong to the long-running feminist reception of Kempe’s work. But her Lollardry monologue frames her as a bumper-sticker slogan — the proverbial opposite of the well-behaved woman who rarely makes history. In its style and effect, the passage comes across as ham-fisted, a slickly triumphalist, pussy-hat-era intrusion into a 15th-century world ... Taken in these terms, Revelations does exactly what it sets out to do: pluck a woman from her burdensome circumstances and send her on a feel-good adventure around the world. In fact, Sharratt’s evident indebtedness to the self-help movement isn’t even the first such interpretation of the source text: five years ago, Penguin Classics republished The Book of Margery Kempe as How To Be a Medieval Woman.