Mariette in Ecstasy
Date Published: June 5, 1992
Number of Pages: 192
Print Price: $5.20
eBook Price: $2.99
This is quite possibly the most beautiful book I have ever read. The writing is lyrical and precise. Some chapters—divided according to the hours of prayer observed by Catholic monastics—are like meditations. One of the most striking aspects of the novel is the descriptions of the nuns' interactions with their daily life and how sensual their lives were, particularly considering they were cloistered virgins. But the fragrance of the hay in the barns, the touch of the dough as they kneaded bread, the play of light on a cow's hide as they milked, are described as sensual and lush.
This is a haunting story about a young stigmatic who may, or may not, be what she seems to be. Mariette is the young, stunningly beautiful daughter of the local doctor. She comes to the convent filled with other-worldly desires and immediately, and unwittingly, causes trouble. Some of the nuns are mesmerized by her beauty and her piety. Others are annoyed by her tendency to fall into trances and consider her an attention-seeking fraud. And, when she begins to manifest the stigmata, some consider her a saint. The varied emotional reactions of her fellow monastics to her are well portrayed—jealousy and resentment are certainly not banished by taking Holy Orders. Throughout the story, Hansen, who is a poetic craftsman with an eye for tantalizing detail, resists the temptation to provide facile explanations. That Mariette is manifesting the symptoms of divine communion is without question but is she touched by the hand of God or daffy as a loon? Stigmatics have long aroused much speculation and discussion but what really causes their manifestations? Are they saints or are they lunatics, and is there a difference?
The ending was, in my opinion, shattering and brilliant. This is a book I have read a number of times and I am always mesmerized by both the beauty of the language and the mystique of the story. Was Mariette a mystic and a beloved of God, or a very, very clever fraud? Readers will have to decide for themselves.
Original Language: English
Book Dimensions: 7.8 x 5.1 x 0.5 inches
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