Mastodon The Writing Desk: Book Launch Guest Post: The Greenest Branch: A Novel of Germany's First Female Physician (Hildegard of Bingen Book 1) by P.K. Adams

1 June 2018

Book Launch Guest Post: The Greenest Branch: A Novel of Germany's First Female Physician (Hildegard of Bingen Book 1) by P.K. Adams

 Available on Amazon US  and Amazon UK 

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. 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.  In the Greenest Branch, the medieval era comes vividly to life in all its romanticism and splendor, but the societal strictures that prevent women from being able to access education and live independent lives are also on display. 

As a child, I was fortunate to be able to visit medieval cathedrals. I still remember the sense of wonder, reverence, and peace I felt when I walked down their aisles, my footsteps echoing under the solemn gaze of marble statues enveloped in the colored lights streaming through the stained-glass windows.

Those churches, and the castles we often toured as well, were fascinating repositories of deeds and achievements of people long gone. But that history had been written by men – kings, bishops, knights, wealthy merchants, and those who designed and built such magnificent places. Whenever women were memorialized, they were either queens or princesses whose legacies, all those centuries later, were often reduced to the artistry of their tombs.

So when I discovered – in a music class at university- a famous medieval woman who was not a royal, I was captivated. How did Hildegard of Bingen manage to achieve such prominence without the prerequisites of high birth? As I began to read about her, my amazement only increased: not only had she been a notable composer, she was also an accomplished physician and a prolific writer on topics ranging from herbs and stones to theology and cosmology, all at a time when women were usually illiterate.

Then came a time when I finally gave myself permission to write – and I mean it literally. I wrote two notes to myself in November 2010. Those notes have been pinned to my corkboard for 7.5 years as I worked on The Greenest Branch. It is a story of an extraordinary woman’s life, as she rises from inauspicious beginnings to fulfill her life’s mission despite societal obstacles and personal challenges.

The Greenest Branch is set in a world that may at first seem distant from ours, but as I wrote it I became aware of some uncanny similarities. Hildegard’s talents and intellect often made her the smartest person in the room, but in order to be accepted by self-satisfied mediocrity she had to diminish herself and her accomplishments. As a woman, she also had to make choices her male peers did not have to face. Finally, despite her brilliance she would not have climbed such heights of influence had it not been for those who mentored her, opened doors for her, and defended her against detractors.

Most modern readers have experienced at least one of those difficulties at one point or another in their lives. The details of our daily lives may have changed beyond recognition in the last 900 years, but the underlying principles have stayed the same. This, to me, is alternately terrifying and exhilarating, for that continuity underscores our shared humanity, not just across space but time as well.

P.K. Adams
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About the Author

P.K. Adams is a Boston-based historical fiction author, whose debut novel The Greenest Branch is the first in a two-book series based on the life of Hildegard of Bingen, Germany’s first female physician. She has a bachelor’s degree from Columbia and a master’s degree in European Studies from Yale. When not reading or writing, she can be found hiking, doing yoga, and drinking tea (though usually not at the same time). Find out more at her website and follow her on Twitter @pk_adams

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