Last July I went to a book market in Braga to find some cheap books to fill my collection. I found a book about D. Joana and I felt I had to buy it. My name is also Joana and she went to live in Aveiro and I visited Aveiro once and fell in love with the city. I feel a connection between us, because there’s something in common.
I wanted to review this even though the book isn’t translated yet into English. The title means D. Joana – Princess and Saint. She was born in the 15th century and she was a rebel in her own way. Even though she was a princess, an important political character, in a time were Portugal was fragile, she felt the need to go to a convent, she wanted to dedicate her life to religion. In those times it was very odd to be a princess and to express a wish to not marry. In those times women from nobility and the royal family had to marry to guarantee political connections with other families and a princess was very important to create alliances with other reigns.
The book itself tries to understand this enigmatic person who lived as a princess and became a saint. The book tries to decompose the life of Joana, explaining the political context in Portugal and illustrating how relevant she was for the royal family. What I like most about this book is that it tries to be as scientific as posible. The writer, Maria Cristina Pimenta, searched the written sources from that period and even from other centuries closer to the 15th century to show what was said about the princess and about the saint and she tried to dissect what was partial or even imaginative (since in the past the pure thruth wasn’t always written). At the same time, some ideas are thrown about the princess’s personality and how it must have been to live life the way she wanted, against even the political will of the royal family.
I loved to read this book because it speaks about a person whom I was curious about, it was easy to read even though the language is scientific and I liked the way the story of life of Joana was structured. It wasn’t written as a historical romance, it was a search for the facts, so difficult to find when the texts that speak of her are partial and they show a side of the truth they wanted to show (the sources spoke about the royal saint or about her sanctity). It’s a good choice to read for those who love History and for those who like to read about women that were ahead of their time and that lived their lives as they wanted to, even against the will of everybody.