The Woman Pope by Nelson Clark

Review: “The Woman Pope” is the rather improbable story of a woman who became pope, a fictional dramatization leading up to her appointment as the leader of the Church of Rome. Her father had been a learned, wandering man who taught his daughter to read, and in combination with her own determination and a sequence of events where she’d been advised to disguise herself as a man: her talents, knowledge and faith were rewarded with the office. Thoughout the centuries it’s been debated, hotly at times, by those who believe it actually happened and others who completely discount the possibility.
I felt there was clear purpose and design in the story, which wasn’t necessarily a difficult task as there is a number of documents, both secular and Catholic sources, as well as the numerous legends and “local tales,” which give details about the life of “The Women Pope”, but I did have some issues with the work itself. Paragraph structure was a problem for me as well as the scarcity of transitioning phrases, so the read was rather “stuttered” from my perspective.

In this novel, you’ll find plenty of descriptions of locations, people and society which were representative of the day: Saracens, witch hunting villagers, filthy city dwellers and the diseased, and the ever present hypocrisy of members of the church, but sometimes it seemed a bit of overkill to me. Certainly, a strong setting with authentic details are necessary in any work but I favor more characterization and what was offered simply didn’t help me engage and empathize with Johanna. Her love story with Adrian…the choices they made, the mistakes and decisions, I rather grew exasperated with the naiveté displayed by the couple. I continued looking for elements, whether it was the secondary characters of the Church who attended the “pope”, to make it believable for me, but I didn’t find it. Dramatic events in and of themselves just don’t work for me, I have to care about the players.

If one is a fan of historical fiction it might be a title to consider, or those who have an interest in legends of the Church of Rome. I found the story itself interesting enough, just like many legendary tales, but the writing style was a drawback in my opinion as I too often felt manipulated into some kind of emotional attachment.

Description: The story of a pope in the 9th century… and the men who loved her. The life and legend of Pope Joan.

  • Format: Ebook and Paperback
  • Published June 1st 2007 by White Moon Publishing
  • ISBN–0615141633 (ISBN13: 9780615141633)
  • Also on Amazon Kindle
  • Source: Author

Author Bio:

Nelson Clark lives and writes in Phoenix, Arizona. Comments, observations and ques-tions just might reach him at:,

If you enjoyed THE WOMAN POPE, please look for the author’ s follow-up novel, ALTERED. It is the story of two Los Angeles detectives trying to stop a killer who plans to destroy God by murdering a member of every religion. And one of the detectives is on the list.


Filed under Historical Fiction, Reviews

2 responses to “The Woman Pope by Nelson Clark

  1. Interesting. It sounds similar to that of Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross. Which was, a great novel. Good review. I’m curious about this book now.

    • Yes I believe that it’s similar. The story itself I think is fascinating, how it could come about and how it was believed at the time. I hope you get to read Nelson Clark’s version.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.