Katharina: Deliverance by Margaret Skea

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.

Diane Andersen’s Review: 5-Stars

Having a lifelong interest and admiration for Katherine von Bora, wife of the 16th-century reformer, Dr. Martin Luther, I was excited to get the chance to read and review Margaret Skea’s novel, Katherina: Deliverance. Katherina von Bora, one of the unsung heroines of the Protestant Reformation, is too often overlooked for novelized subjects, despite being a historical writer’s dream on so many levels.

Rejected by her family as a child after her mother’s death, consigned to convent life against her will and then gaining independence in choosing her own course in life lead to an unexpected marriage to the most infamous and controversial man of 16th century Europe. Katherina’s life is the stuff of a Hollywood or BBC miniseries. Aside from a couple of young adult Christian novels, there’s been precious little to speak of in literature and certainly, nothing suited for the mature reader until now.

In her 2017 book, Skea takes a few bare-bones facts mingled with lore and spins it all into a richer historical series aimed at adults. This is no mere historical romance or inspirational Christian saga. Instead, Skea brings us deep into the issues of the Reformation and puts Katharina right in the heart of it. This Katie is shown to be a spirited thinker with a decided mind of her own, while also being suitably devout and demure for a woman of her times.

What is also refreshing is Skea’s innovative spin on previously accepted theories of Katie Luther’s life. Did she and eleven other nuns really escape the convent in herring barrels? Or is this just a tall tale based on misinformation? When confronting Katie’s refusal to marry Pastor Glatz did she really suggest as an alternative, either Luther or Amsdorf, in a coy attempt at setting her cap for her man, as some scholars presume? Or was it merely a fleeting, if absurd, thought to underscore her desperation and determined will?

Skea considers these views and takes a refreshing twist that brings a whole new perspective to things we thought we knew, as well as taking us into the intimate aspects of Martin and Katie’s first awkward weeks together in the Black Cloister, from the marriage bed and beyond. Yet even this is done with enough tempered discretion to appease the most discerning Christian reader.

Above all, Katherina’s faith shines through against a firestorm of events during a defining moment in history, as duty and personal happiness weigh in the balance. Skea’s skill and insight are apparent without the didactic preachiness of most Spiritual fiction.

For those not well versed in the Reformation era or German Lutheran history, Skea offers an easy informed read with a character list, glossary, and historic notes in the back to bring it all into focus. The laundry list of names and characters can be daunting at times, particularly for those not well versed in the Reformation and its key players. But there is enough to keep abreast of the story and encourage further study.

Elkin Hardcoves’ Review: 4.9-Stars

This novel convincingly portrays a young Katharina Von Bora, a woman who would have been long forgotten were it not for her own boldness and choice of husband. Like thousands of other young girls, Katharina was sent to a convent to relieve her family of the burden of raising and marrying her off. Unlike almost all who had come before her Katherina chose a different path than the convent at great risk, a path one might say indicates greater faith in God than a lifetime in a nunnery.

Skea does a marvelous job of filling in the gaps in Katharina’s life — of which there are many — while working within the framework of known historical facts. It would have been tempting for an author to write Martin and Katharina’s story as more romantic than it truly was, but Skea does not give in to this temptation. Katharina makes a decision based on much more than passionate love, a type of decision that is rarely made in modern courtships, and this story is faithfully told.

Though Martin Luther is not heavily featured until later in Katherina’s story, he is present through quotes that appear at the beginning of each chapter, giving the reader the sensation that the two were on paths destined to intersect long before they knew each other. While their courtship is not the stuff of a romantic blockbuster movie, we are given hints that they did indeed grow to love each other very much through glimpses of Katharina later in life.

Neither Martin nor Katharina is perfect. Luther’s fiery temper and impetuosity is on display, as is Katharina’s willingness to firmly defend her own opinions. It is made clear that neither was the other’s first choice, but they both determined to make the marriage work, not only for their own sake but for the greater glory of God. ‘He is a good man, who, if some of his wilder impulses can be contained, may yet become great.’ Become great he did, with an amazing woman to support him.

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