Review: Luther and Katharina

Luther and Katharina:  A Novel of Love and Rebellion by Jody Hedlund

Waterbrook Press, 2015.  Trade Paperback, 400 pages.Cover:  Luther and Katharina

Luther and Katharina opens to the tumultuous era during the early years of the Protestant Reformation.  While Martin Luther preaches against Rome, Katharina von Bora and a group of nuns escape from their convent.  The female group arrives in Wittenberg to request assistance from Luther.  He places as many as possible in homes, whether it be in marriage or returning a female to her relatives, but one remains: Katharina.  Katharina struggles with her new life; all she wants is a family of her own.  Still, she is jilted by one man and repulsed by another.  Throughout the two years the novel covers, though, she often comes to Luther’s aid during his frequent illnesses.  Luther struggles with not only assisting his chosen cause, but in his feelings about Katharina.  He loves her, but fears bringing a wife into his hazardous situation as many fear and attempt to assassinate him.  Some of Luther’s colleagues see and support his unrequited love for Katharina while others oppose it.  Will love prevail?

As history knows, Luther does marry this escaped nun.  What is less known is the truth behind their relationship.  How did it form?  How well did they know each others?  How did Katharina’s noble birth affect the relationship?  How did the people of Wittenberg, where both lived during the novel’s course, react to each individual and their relationship with each other?  Those are the questions Hedlund tries to address in her novel using a mix of fact and fiction.

Overall, I had higher hopes for this novel.  Reading it felt less like perusing a good historical fiction work and more like a typical romance novel.  Too much focus was on the on-again-off-again aspects of Luther and Katharina’s relationship and their thoughts regarding the relationship.  Historical content was minimal and only enough to provide basic context for the era.  That said, while the characterization of Luther remained about the same, one does see a transformation with Katharina as the novel progresses, mainly in the latter quarter.  Without further research, I am not sure how close the story line of this novel follows what really occurred.  However, the author does states in a note at the end that many of the basic facts included within the novel are true; she simply filled gaps with speculation and/or built on how she thought the relationships would progress.

Do you think you will read this novel?  Do you know of any other novels set amid the Protestant Reformation to recommend?  Or a work of non-fiction on the subject worth reading to learn more?

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.


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