Book Review: The Greenest Branch by P.K. Adams

the greenest branch pk adams book review

The synopsis on the back of the book:

The year is 1115, and Germany is torn apart by a conflict between the Emperor and the Pope over who should have the right to appoint bishops and control the empire’s vast estates. In that atmosphere, young Hildegard is sent to the Abbey of St. Disibod in the Rhineland as her parents’ gift to the Church in accordance with a custom known as the tithe. 

Hildegard has a deep love of nature and a knowledge of herbal healing that might make more than one Church official suspicious of witchery, and she hopes to purse medical studies at St. Disibod. But no sooner does she settle into her new life than she finds out that as a girl she will not be allowed to attend the monastic school or use the abbey’s library; instead, she must stay at the women’s convent, isolated from the rest of the community and from the town. 

When Hildegard’s reputation starts to spread throughout the Rhineland, Helenger’s persecution escalates as he fears losing control over the women’s community. But that is not the only challenge she must grapple with. She has also developed feelings for Volmar, a fellow Benedictine novice, that force Hildegard to re-examine the fundamental assumptions she has made about her life. Is the practice of medicine within the monastic confines her true calling, or is a quiet existence of domestic contentment more desirable? 

  • Genre: Historical Fiction
  • Published: 6/18
  • Pages: 279
  • Goodreads Rating: 4.75 Stars
the greenest branch p.k. adams book review
The world [is] a whole, every element connected, all infused with vital energy of creation.
— Hildegard

Why I Chose This Book

P.K. Adams reached out to me to review her book. I have never read a book set during the 12th century so of course, I signed up to see what it's all about! 

First Initial Thoughts

Hildegard is a 10-year-old girl in a well to do family and because she is the 10th child in the family, she must follow the tithe custom. A tithe is where the 10th child in a family will go to a convent and serve the Lord for the rest of their days. I couldn't imagine being 10 years old and being separated from your family (most likely to never see them again) to go serve the Lord in a convent. And not only that never see the outside world, to never go wander the woods or experience life in the village. Hildegard was very mature for her age but again she was just a child. 

She had to deal with a lot of challenges when she first came there. She didn't really understand all of it and struggled with many of the daily rituals. She also experienced Sister Jutta Self Flagillating herself. That must of been traumatizing. To not fully understand why she was doing that and to be worried for her at the same time. Soon Hildegard is inflicted with horrible headaches - or what we now know them as Migraines. 

Brother Wigbert is the convent physician. I think without him Hildegard would be stuck in that convent inside all the time. He grew attached to Hildegard when she came to the infirmary when she became sick with her migraines. He persuaded the parish to let Hildegard to study alongside him. I really liked Wigbert - he was a forward thinker and I liked that about him. 

   Photo Via How Stuff Works

Photo Via How Stuff Works

Setting

It is hard to imagine what life was like during this time. P.K. Adams did her research and definitely created a world that we could visualize in our mind. I kind of know what a convent is like - from books and movies but Adams introduced us to the world of St. Disabod and what it was like to live in one in the 12th century. 

It is the natural order of things…that women should rear children since they are the gentler and more nurturing of the sexes. …I pondered this, frowning. But if women are better at caring for others, they should make better doctors, too, shouldn’t they?
— Wigbert and Hildegard

Final Thoughts

This book moved slowly but covered A LOT in the short pages. Typically when the story moves slowly I get bored quickly. However, with this book it was different. P.K. Adams had a way of telling the story that was engaging and inspiring. It made me want to keep going to see what Hildegard was up to on a daily basis. 

Hildegard faced tremendous criticism for her wanting to be a physician. For one, women were not expected to do anything but bear children and be a wife. It was literally unheard of women having a career. She was far ahead of her time. She was a bright person and very determined to create a life of her own. 

This was also based on a true story. Hildegard was a real person. Her painting is above. Even though some parts may be fictional, her life story was true. When I read true stories I find them to be very inspiring. Especially in the case of Hildegard. It's inspiring for me to see a lady of her time, despite adversity, created a life she wanted despite what others said. It inspires me to follow suit! 

Would I Recommend? 

Definitely! It's not labeled as a Christian book but it is set in a convent so please bear in mind that there is a lot of religious content. I think anyone interested in this time period and what life was like in a convent will really enjoy this book. 

 

You can purchase the book ---> HERE

Do you also find the 12th century interesting and completely foreign as well? I hope you check out the book to read! 

the caffeinated bibliophile

NOTE: I was sent this book to review by the author. All opinions are my own.