Thank you, NetGalley for giving access to an eBook copy of The Mirror of Simple Souls by Aline Kiner for free in exchange for an honest review. The eBook I received from NetGalley didn’t have a cover image, so I am using a cover image I have found through google (Fair use under the copyright act sections 29 and 30 under use for a review)
2023 is a year of rediscovering dear Reader, this year I have rediscovered my love of history and historical fiction. The historical fiction books I have read this year have all inspired me to do further research into the subjects mentioned in the books.
The Mirror of Simple Souls is no different, although I wasn’t completely blindsided by this book as I knew about the templar knights and the limited choices for women’s occupations. Until I read this book, I knew nothing about the beguines, my previous knowledge thought that the only choice for women in the time period was being wives, nuns or prostitutes (Don’t look at me like that, it’s the oldest profession in the world).
Aline Kiner has created an insightful historical novel set-in 14th century Paris. This book does a wonderful job shining a spotlight on the great beguinage, an exclusive community for single women that was under royal protection. The women who ended up in the beguines didn’t follow the path that was expected of them at the time. My understanding is that a the great beguinage was like a convent, but the women didn’t have to take vows and unlike nuns, the beguines were free to retain property and their own affairs.
I’m sorry dear Reader I really am trying not to history dump and tone down my excitement of what I discovered through reading this book in addition to being inspired to do my own research. I might have blinkers on dear Reader, but I have found it hard to find novels set in the Middle Ages that isn’t focused just on royalty and political aspects of the time. This book investigates the ordinary lives of women who joined the beguines, and I loved every second of it.
The streets of Paris came to life in this book as the story unfolded. Aline effortlessly combined fiction with real events of The Templars and Marguerite Porete who was burned at the stake for heresy. I found it hard to put this book down as I felt invest in the women’s stories. This book is a great read for anyone who loves historical fiction.