Mariette in Ecstasy by Ron Hansen

Even before I started reading Mariette in Ecstasy (1991) by Ron Hansen, I had an inkling that I really like cloister stories (I read one I quite liked last year.). But after finishing this one, I’m sure of it.

I knew next to nothing about this book before I began reading it — it’s on the list, so I read it.

Set in upstate New York in 1906, title character Mariette — pronounced with a mar as in blemish, not as in mare, per the book — is a postulant at the local convent. The bulk of the story, of the drama, dwells after she begins experiencing Christ’s suffering in a very real, very bodily way.

This post has been sitting dormant for more than a week. I just don’t know what to write. I loved the book, but I don’t want to get very far into it. It’s better if you just read the book (if you want to, I mean) — I don’t want to give anything away.

I plan to read more of Hansen’s work.

Per Wikipedia: Hansen was born in Omaha, Nebraska, and earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Creighton University. He received an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and held a Wallace Stegner Creative Writing Fellowship at Stanford University. He later earned a master’s in spirituality from Santa Clara University.

I am still puzzling over why both cloister stories I’ve read, both set in convents, were written by men, though. Anyone have ideas? Or suggestions of cloister books written by women?

Here’s another review of the book.


10 responses to “Mariette in Ecstasy by Ron Hansen

  1. Have you read In this House of Brede, by Rumer Godden? I love this book about a high powered business executive who gives up everything to join a convent. It is a powerful look inside the walls of a convent and eloquently speaks about how sacrifices, both small and large, make up the life of a religious. I found the book very moving.

    The BBC movie with Diane Rigg didn’t come close to capturing the subtleties of the book.



  2. Jim: No, I haven’t read that book. Sounds like a good one, though; I’ve now added it to my wishlist!

  3. I read this book when it first came out, and I still remember it being really beautiful. I looked at your list, and I think “Jacob Have I Loved” was great. “Death Comes for the Archbishop” is one of my favorite books ever!

    I just read “The Sixteen Pleasures,” which is partly set in a convent, and you’re right, it was written by a man too.

  4. I had the esteemed privilege of teaching at the same school as Ron Hansen for a year – Santa Clara University – and while I barely spoke to him, he was very, very kind when I asked him to sign my books.
    Mariette in Ecstasy sounds like just my kind of thing, so to the top of the pile it goes. Thanks.

  5. Andi: Hope you like it!

  6. I love the name Mariette. You might like another book on a similar topic, Our Lady of the Forest, by David Guterson. No convent, though, sorry.

  7. I haven’t read much in this line, but for a different take — and a book I really liked, try The Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris. I read it about 10 years ago, but I remember being very taken with it. I don’t know if this makes a difference, but I’m not a Christian; I gave the book to a Quaker friend of mine who also loved the book, but a Catholic friend couldn’t even finish it. So, try it at your own risk!

    Anyway, thanks for the review. I may have to put Mariette on my wish list.

  8. This sounds very interesting. I went to the other review at Striped Arm Chair and read it too. This is now on my books to consider reading list.

  9. Pingback: Faith’n’Fiction Roundtable: Wounded by Claudia Mair Burney « Word Lily

  10. Pingback: 2011 reading | Word Lily

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