7 January 2019

Guest Post by P. K. Adams, Author of The Column of Burning Spices: A Novel of Germany's First Female Physician (Hildegard of Bingen Book 2)


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The Column of Burning Spices is the second part of a series based on the life of Hildegard of Bingen, a 12th century German composer, mystic, writer, and physician. As I wrote on this blog last summer when the first part, The Greenest Branch, was released, I first learned about Hildegard in a music history class at university.

I became fascinated by this famous medieval woman who was not a royal. How did she manage to achieve such prominence without the prerequisites of high birth? And how did she navigate the societal strictures that prevented women from accessing education, living independent lives, and having a public voice?

The Greenest Branch (which is currently a semi-finalist for the 2018 Chaucer Awards for pre-1750 Historical Fiction and will compete for the Grand Prize in April 2019) focused on Hildegard’s early life, after she had been sent to the Benedictine Abbey of St. Disibod in the Rhineland at age eleven. It traced her struggle to secure an apprenticeship with the abbey infirmarian and then work her way up to the status of physician.

Along the way she had to fend off repeated attempts by Prior Helenger to stop her from treating patients and writing about medicine, and to relegate her permanently to the convent’s enclosure. By the end of the book, it was clear that Hildegard must leave the Abbey of St. Disibod if she wanted to live her life and her vocation as she saw fit. But in order to do that she needed to save a lot of money and obtain her superior’s permission.

The Column of Burning Spices, which will be released on February 1, 2019, picks up where The Greenest Branch left off. In her early 40s now, Hildegard has the funds to move and is at the pinnacle of her fame as a physician. She has also begun to write on topics other than medicine—namely theological matters. This puts her on a collision course with the monks who cite the biblical passages that admonish against “women teachers.”

But Hildegard has a plan. She shares her writing with Abbot Bernard of Clairvaux. He is both feared and respected throughout Europe and was a great admirer of Hildegard’s late predecessor at the helm of the convent, the ascetic Jutta von Sponheim. If he sanctions her activities, the monks will be powerless to stop her, and she might even win independence and establish her own foundation.

But will Bernard take up a woman’s cause and subvert centuries of established tradition? And will it be enough to protect Hildegard from a betrayal that lurks closer than she could ever imagine?

The Greenest Branch and The Column of Burning Spices are set against the backdrop of the lush oak forests, vineyard-covered hills, and sparkling rivers of the Rhineland, and bring to life the story of one of medieval era’s most fascinating and accomplished women.

P. K. Adams 
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About the Author

P.K. Adams is the pen name of Patrycja Podrazik. She has a master’s degree in European Studies from Yale University. She turned to fiction writing after a career that included working as a book publicist in New York and a copywriter and editor for a marketing company in Boston. She is a blogger and historical fiction reviewer at www.pkadams-author.com. Her debut novel, The Greenest Branch, a Novel of Germany’s First Female Physician, was published on Amazon in June 2018 and is currently a semi-finalist for the 2018 Chaucer Book Awards for Pre-1750 Historical Fiction. The second book in the series, The Column of Burning Spices, will be released in February 2019. She is a member of the Historical Novel Society and lives in Boston, Massachusetts. Find out more at her website https://pkadams-author.com/ and follow her on Twitter @pk_adams

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