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Jerome and His Women Paperback – 5 October 2015
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'Offers incredible insight into the achievements of a much maligned yet very important figure ... and the women surrounding him.'
Dr Mario Baghos, St Andrew's Greek Orthodox Theological College, Australia
'That's the twin gift of Jerome and His Women it is an insight into extraordinary times and people, and into a talented researcher and writer.'
Robert Fairhead, Writing NSW
'O'Hagan gives her readers a fascinating look at the man behind that controversial masterpiece' (the Vulgate).
Joanna Urquhart, Historical Novel Society
'A compelling vision ... of what Rome was like at a particular moment in its transition from capital of a pagan empire to the City of God.'
Richard Blake, novelist Richard Blake's reviews
'O'Hagan pens a meticulously researched novel that vividly shines a light on a time that shaped Western society forevermore.'
Wendy J Dunn, historical novelist
'If you have a religious/theological interest and want to see real historical characters who are involved in those matters brought to life, this is your book.'
Fred Mench, Professor of Classics, Emeritus
'(O'Hagan) ... makes this flawed genius more understandable as a human being ... and gives us the wonderful story of St Paula of Rome, patron saint of widows ... That story alone is enough to recommend this book.'
National Council of Priests of Australia
About the Author
- Publisher : Black Quill Press (5 October 2015)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 290 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0646943707
- ISBN-13 : 978-0646943701
- Dimensions : 15.24 x 1.65 x 22.86 cm
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from Australia
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The Pontiff, Damasus I, commissions Jerome, a priest, theologian and scholar, to translate the Bible from Greek texts into a definitive Latin version. Jerome has the Pontiff’s favour but is unpopular with other Church hierarchy and Roman aristocracy for his criticism of their wealth and wanton ways.
Jerome’s women are a circle of educated widows and their daughters who reject Roman luxuries for lives of piety and poverty. Principal among them is Paula, with whom Jerome forms a close spiritual and intellectual bond. She assists with his translation of the Bible, shares the dream of monastic life in the desert, and funds their eventual escape from persecution to the Holy Land.
The twin gift of Jerome and His Women is that it is a tale of extraordinary times and people, brought to life by a skilled researcher and writer, Joan O'Hagan.
In one important sense, this novel would have been better entitled Jerome's Women. While Saint Jerome, an early father of the church and a protégé of Pope Damasus I, gives the story purpose, it is the Roman women in this story who stand out and gives the story its true heart and substance.
The most important of these women is the complex and intelligent Paula. A Roman aristocratic and wealthy widow, Paula pours her energy and spiritual passion into assisting him to complete his commission to translate the Bible into Latin.
Paula’s daughter Blessilla is also a powerful figure in this work. Blessilla acts as a metaphor for Rome of this period. At the start of the story, she belongs more to the old ways of Rome than to the new. By the end of the story, she symbolises the final separation of the old Roman world from Christianity.
The past is another country; they do things differently there,” (Hartley and Brookes-Davies 1997: p.5). The best works of historical fiction always remember this. They are works which open the door to the past, invite us in, and keep us there by immersing us in a time long gone. Jerome and his Women easily falls into the category of the best kind of historical fiction. O’Hagan pens a meticulously researched novel that vividly shines a light on a time that shaped Western society forevermore.
Hartley, L.P. and D. Brooks-Davies (1997) The Go-Between. London; New York, Penguins Books.
The setting of this novel, the fourth century CE, was a time of upheaval for the Roman Empire. In addition to a series of internal riots and external threats, the spread of Christianity with the worship of a monotheistic God was replacing pagan beliefs and gods. In Rome, Jerome was surrounded by ‘his women’: a circle of well-born and well-educated women. These women included the patrician widows Lea, Marcella and Paula, together with their daughters Blaesilla and Eustochium. By concentrating on these women and Jerome’s dealings with them, Ms O’Hagan paints a picture of a complicated man: at times introspective and at other times argumentative. Jerome was critical of the secular clergy of Rome and, shortly after the death of Damasus I, he was forced to leave his position. It was alleged that he had an improper relationship with the widow Paula. Eventually he and Paula travelled to the Holy Land where they built two monasteries and a hospice.
I found this novel fascinating, partly because I know so little about this particular aspect of Christian history. Ms O’Hagan brings to life Jerome’s women, with her descriptions of how they chose to turn their back on luxurious Roman life, instead selling off their property and possessions to donate to the poor and to the Church. These women then chose, with varying degrees of success, to live celibate lives of prayer in poverty.
Ms O’Hagan started work on this novel in the 1990s, and completed it shortly before her death in 2014. I think it is a tribute to her writing skills that the research she undertook to write this novel never weighs the narrative down.
I am always on the lookout for books by Australian women, and when Joan O’Hagan’s name was mentioned, I added her to my list. Now I’ve read ‘Jerome and His Women’, I’ll be looking for her other novels.
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Dr. Charles M. Odahl