The fault, dear readers…: The Publishers Weekly Review of “The Book of Margery Kempe”

To paraphrase Shakespeare: The fault, dear readers, lies not in our characters, but in ourselves…

I finished my first novel, The Book of Margery Kempe, just in time to enter it in Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Award Contest. I didn’t have time to get it edited, and fretted that my manuscript would be rejected because of typos and omissions, of which there were many.

I was quite pleased when I made it though to the quarter-finals and yesterday, when I heard that Margery had made it to the semi-final round, I was flooded with emotion. Obviously I was pleased for myself, for in some sense it served as validation, but mostly I was pleased for my characters, for Margery, Janie, Arthur, Bill, Margaret, Ambrose, and John. They have let me into their lives, and as for Margery,  who was one of the great English mystics and who wrote the first autobiography in the English language, well what can I say? For me she represents all those strong, outstanding women who have shaped my life. She continues to forge her path, and if there are any shortcomings in portraying her, in capturing her voice, the fault lies in my pen, but not in my heart.

I am including below The Publishers Weekly Review.

This first-rate manuscript incorporates contemporary fiction and historical nonfiction to tell a tale of spiritual transformation and the search for self. It utilizes “The Book of Margery Kempe” — the first autobiography written in English, circa 1437, which recounts the life of medieval mystic and pilgrim Margery Kempe — as the catalyst that spurs its modern-day and medieval characters to action. And it switches from narrator to narrator and from 1431 to 2007. The story begins when London publisher Bill Avery acquires the rights to distribute “The Book of Margery Kempe,” and asks Janie Radcliffe, Avery Publishing’s British literature specialist, to write the book’s Introduction. Janie delves into her research and discovers that Margery dictated her story to two scribes — one of whom is Arthur Chartis, a character who speaks eloquently of his consequential encounters with Marjorie and his own desire to confer with the Lord. This intriguing and impressive manuscript names the second scribe early, defying centuries-old assumptions about the scribe’s possible identity. Janie becomes increasingly transfixed by Margery’s mysticism. Could Margery hear God’s voice, as she claimed? Or was she a heretic who flouted ecclesiastical authority? To generate publicity for the book’s release Ambrose Wells, Avery’s advertising guru, devises a marketing stunt: a reenactment of Margery’s pilgrimage from England to Jerusalem with Janie “following in Margery’s footsteps” and contributing missives along her journey to a London newspaper. What begins as a trite tactic to sell books morphs into Janie’s veritable God quest — the outcome of which solidifies Janie’s persona and stupefies Bill, Ambrose, and Janie’s mother. Keen insight, vivid characters, and solid storytelling make this one to watch.

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “The fault, dear readers…: The Publishers Weekly Review of “The Book of Margery Kempe”

  1. Hey Mark, congratulations on reaching the semifinals – a really impressive achievement. Here’s hoping you go all the way with this and that The Book of MK finds the distribution — print, e-, or both — that it deserves.

  2. Hi Mark,
    Congratulations!! Great news. Sounds like the start of your next big success. I imagine recognition of this type will go a long way in helping you to find a publisher, agent . . . I’m very happy for you and am looking forward to reading the book. I expect to see it in bookstores everywhere very soon.
    Best,
    Heidi

  3. Also worth reading, Alicia Virginia’s comments: “Congratulations for making the final rounds of ABNA! The Book of Margery Kempe, by Mark Schroeder, is a novel that will stay with the reader from the time one first becomes acquainted with the stories of Margery and Janie, to long past the final page. The author’s poetic voice evokes the deep spiritual experience of these two women as they journey to find God and the Spirit within. There are so many layers to this story that will appeal to many readers, including historical notes, beautiful prose and poetry, compelling characters, and the invitation to experience a pilgrimage, both ancient and modern. Mark Schroeder’s ability to capture the voices of the many characters is brilliant, both poetic and distinct in style, making this novel among one of the best of our times. This story challenges the reader as well, to journey either within or beyond, and open oneself to the experiences that lie ahead. The Book of Margery Kempe has my vote for this breakthrough novel award!”

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