Katharina: Deliverance (Book 1 Katharina series) by Margaret Skea.
Katharina: Deliverance: An inspirational coming of age fictional biography of the woman at the heart of the Reformation.
RUNNER-UP Historical Novel Society New Novel Award 2018
At five Katharina is placed in a convent.
At twenty-three she escapes.
At twenty-five she marries the most controversial man in Europe.
This is her story – of courage, resilience in the face of adversity and a determination to choose her own life.
If you like your historical fiction to be absorbing, authentic, beautifully written and full of warmth and heart, this portrayal of Katharina von Bora, the escaped nun who married Martin Luther, is for you.
Margaret Skea grew up in Ulster at the height of the ‘Troubles’, but now lives with her husband in the Scottish Borders. Awarded the Beryl Bainbridge Award for Best First Time Author 2014 and Historical Fiction Winner in the Harper Collins / Alan Titchmarsh People’s Novelist Competition for her debut novel Turn of the Tide, the sequel A House Divided was longlisted for the Historical Novel Society New Novel Award 2016. The third book in the series, By Sword and Storm, is due for publication in July 2018. Katharina: Deliverance is the first of two novels based on the life of Katharina von Bora, the escaped nun who married Martin Luther. She is passionate about well-researched, authentic historical fiction and providing a ‘you are there’ experience for the reader. An Hawthornden Fellow and award winning short story writer – recent wins include, Neil Gunn, Chrysalis Prize, and Winchester Short Story Prize. Placings and listings include Rubery Short Story, Historical Novel Society Short Story, Mslexia, Fish – Short Story and One Page Prize and the Matthew Pritchard Award. She has been published in a range of magazines and anthologies in Britain and the USA. –This text refers to the paperback edition.
The last part of the journey is least comfortable of all, riding in front of Father on a borrowed horse, the buttons of his jacket pressing into my spine, my bottom and legs aching from bouncing up and down. The leather of the saddle chafes my thighs, and though I’m frightened to arrive, I wish for the journey to end.
One moment we are in dappled sunlight, the next we stop in the shadow of a tall wall in front of a bleached oak door, studded with metal. The opening is deep-set, lined with alternate long and short stones, pitted with chisel marks, where slivers of stone have been chipped away. ‘How can stones be dressed?’ I’d said, when Hans told me that was what it was called.
And he’d laughed and ruffled my hair. ‘It’s just a name, Katchen, to show it’s been worked.’
‘Well it’s stupid,’ I’d said, cross that he’d laughed. If Father would only turn around and take me home, I’d never be cross with Hans again.
Instead, he lifts me down, holding me round the waist for a minute, then unties my bag and hammers on the door. It opens to reveal an elderly nun, her face creased and marked with dark spots, like an apple lain too long in store, and he pats me on the head and tells me, ‘Be good, mind, and do all that is asked of you.’
I reach for his hand, but he slides free of me and turns away, his voice gruff, as if he has something stuck in his throat. ‘You cannot be taught at home, Katchen, and I think you will be happy here, if you do but give it a chance.’
As the heavy door bangs shut behind me, blocking him from my sight, my stomach heaves. I swallow hard and stumble along the flagged path behind the silent nun and through another, smaller door, where she sets me down at a rough deal table, another woman thrusting a posset of warm milk and cinnamon into my hands. The last thing I remember: the warmth of glowing embers on my left cheek and a tuneless humming from the woman, as round as she was tall, dressed in a shapeless gown the colour of dead leaves, who stirred a pot on the fire.
The Magic Of Wor(l)ds
Lippendorf, February 1505
‘It is very shameful that children, especially defenceless young girls, are pushed into the nunneries. Shame on the unmerciful parents who treat their own so cruelly.’
Curled into the window seat, I press my face against the rippled glass, watching the trees bending and straightening before the wind, as the townsfolk do when Duke George passes through the market square. Above the trees, clouds pile, black on black, and I shiver. ‘The rain is coming.’
Klement, standing behind me, whispers in my ear, ‘The giant is coming. His footsteps shake the track leading from the woods. Soon he will reach us and…’ He grips my shoulders, shaking me.
Hans leaps up from his chair, shoves Klement backwards. ‘Stop it!’ And to me, ‘It’s only thunder, Kat, and cannot touch us here.’
Another rumble, louder than the last, and with it a distant rattle, like a cart on the cobbles in Lippendorf. The sky darkens, sucking out the light, Klement hissing, ‘And darkness was over the earth from the sixth until the ninth hour…’
Hans glares at Klement again as a jagged line of light splits open the sky, the accompanying crack frightening. I cross myself and shut my eyes until the noise fades, then peep between my fingers and see the rain spiking onto the ground below the window, churning the semicircle of path that curves to our door into a river of mud. The tree outside the window is blackened and a curl of smoke struggles upwards against the falling rain.
Klement is triumphant. ‘See? Next time it will be…’
‘Shut up!’ Hans spins round, claps his hand over Klement’s mouth. ‘Listen. There’s a carriage coming. Can it be Father?’ His voice has a catch in it that sends another shiver through me. ‘Anna said…’
Klement is at my other side, mischief forgotten. ‘Anna is a gossip. We shouldn’t pay too much attention to what she says.’
I tug at Hans’ arm. ‘What did Anna say?’
He pats my hand, shakes his head. ‘Nothing. Klement is right. It is but gossip and likely nonsense.’
We all crane to see as the carriage rolls to a stop, sending a wave of water arcing towards Anna, drenching her skirts as she waits in the open doorway. There is another flash of lightning as our father emerges and, holding the carriage door, reaches up to hand down a woman dressed in a burgundy cloak, her face shadowed by the broad brim of her hat. The padded velvet top is studded with pearls in the shape of a swan, its wings raised as if poised for flight.
‘Rich, I suppose,’ Hans says.
She hesitates on the carriage step, as if reluctant to soil her shoes in the mud, then, with a flash of ankle, she lifts her skirt and, holding onto our father, leaps the puddle between the carriage and the threshold of the door, slipping as she lands. He keeps his arm around her waist even when she’s steady again.
I catch a glimpse of a silver buckle and shining leather, just like our mother’s shoes she wore on Sundays going to Mass, and my stomach aches. ‘Who’s she?’ I ask. ‘And why’s she with Father?’
‘The wicked stepmother, I presume,’ Klement says.