Silent Heroes, When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for, 1 Year Anniversary

5 books everyone should read in their lifetime

Celebrate with me Silent Heroes, When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for and its 1 year anniversary from its publishing debut on Amazon.
Looking at war from the perspective of all those sucked into it, civilians, soldiers, military working dogs, MWD, and eve belligerents, Silent Heroes is a narrative about the value of life and the necessity of combat; the terror of dying; the ordeal of seeing your loved ones and your platoon-mates killed in front of your eyes; the trauma of taking a human life.

“What I tried to convey through Silent Heroes is that all those impacted by war are, at the end of a fighting day, human being with dreams and families. A war’s consequences, like the shadow of a nightmare, reach far beyond the battlefield.
Perhaps being a woman that writes about war I couldn’t ignore my inner voice speaking for the daughter, the wife, and the mother in me.”

Patricia Furstenberg
Silent Heroes, When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for, 1 Year Anniversary, 5 books everyone should read in their lifetime
5 books everyone should read in their lifetime, Jodi Picoult, Ken Follett, Silent Heroes by Patricia Furstenberg, Victor Hugo, Shantaram – as chosen by fantastic reader and book blogger Mani.

On the book itself and on how it came to be, read below.

Numerous other silent heroes, from countless wars, came before the book itself, especially the Military Working Dogs of Gulf War, Iraq War and the War in Afghanistan. That was just the beginning.

Secrets Revealed in of Silent Heroes

5 Secrets Revealed in Silent Heroes. A Mysterious Underground Fortress
5 Secrets Revealed in Silent Heroes. The Military Chain of Command
5 Secrets Revealed in Silent Heroes. Taliban’s Secret Lair
5 Secrets Revealed in Silent Heroes. Women’s Rights under Taliban
5 Secrets Revealed in Silent Heroes. The Humanity of U.S. Marines

Music often inspired me. I invite you to listen to some of the tunes behind Silent Heroes, When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for on the book’s 1 Year Anniversary:

The Music of Silent Heroes

Songs that Remind me of the Marines, my Silent Heroes
Songs that Remind me of Silent Heroes: the Afghan people

The Setting behind Silent Heroes

5 Remarkable Places You Will Want to Visit After Reading Silent Heroes
Afghanistan, a Dangerous Landscape

The youngest human character in Silent Heroes is a little Afghan boy of eight years old, Rafik:

Rafik’s Travels in Silent Heroes

Rafik’s Journey in Silent Heroes. An Afghan Village
Rafik’s Journey in Silent Heroes. At Camp Bastion
Rafik’s Journey in Silent Heroes. The Afghan Desert
Rafik’s Journey in Silent Heroes. An Oshkosh Vehicle
Rafik’s Journey in Silent Heroes. The Hindu Kush Mountains

Silent Heroes book Afghanistan military orking dogs Patricia Furstenberg

Of course, there would be no Silent Heroes, 1 Year Anniversary, without some:

Silent Heroes Poetry and First Chapters

The Soldier and his Dog, Silent Heroes
A Boy and his Dog
Read the opening pages of Silent Heroes by Patricia Furstenberg

If you love secrets and symbology you might enjoy reading:

Secrets of a Book Cover

Secrets of a Book Cover – a Guest Post: the soldier and his dog, an Afghan sunset, and Afghan eyes
Secrets Hidden in a Book Cover – the colors: red, brown and gold

Women Writing about War

How is my Writing Different in my Genre
A Resultant Force, Women Writing about War
Women Writing about War

Silent Heroes

And, how else:

Celebrating the Readers of “Silent Heroes, When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for” and Their 5 Stars Reviews for This Book

7 War Books You Must Read

7 war books you must read

If for each war victim would a war book be written, then each one of these books would be a must read, in their honor, don’t you think? War stories, as we remember them told by grandparents, always had something nostalgic about them, although the brutality of war, in its essence, was remembered as a traumatic experience. Perhaps the nostalgia came from the people caught in battles, the friendship,the humanity that united them.

The richness of emotions that both warrior and narrator go through when dealing with this subject has fascinated plenty of authors throughout time. Perhaps for an author another intriguing aspect is the location, as war novels generally take place in territories far away, if not geographically then through their descriptions, full of blood and pain, love, loss and hope. Time frame presents an alluring aspect as well, a war story will have a before and an after, while characters don’t have to have come with a pedigree to be memorable. In a war story anyone can be a hero,a soldier, a child, a dog. War stories also stir issues connected with spiritual inheritance, loss of memory (spiritual or factual) and, last but not least, identity and humanity.

Essential in all the novels below is the viscerality of writing and the relentless way in which a war changes a man forever. Reading such a type of novel will raise many questions about our condition as people and will make you aware that nothing is guaranteed when it comes to an extreme experience, one having the potential for total transformation.

7 War Books You Must Read:

1 – Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

7 War Books You Must Read, Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell

A book just as popular nearly one hundred years after publication, to me the main theme in Gone with the Wind is that of survival.

The novel combines several genres (psychological, buildungsroman, romance, historical ) and manages to create an unforgettable story, perhaps the most beloved story about the Confederate States of America. and it does this by the use of its main characters, especially Scarlett O’Hara.

The theme of survival and the reason for the courage that derives from it, the power to never give up as well as the unbridled passion of a young soul, the love for money and the saying “Tomorrow is another day”, plus the ability to identify, to some extent , with the characters of the novel, still make Gone with the Wind a modern work, although the historical background belongs to the American Civil War era of the United States history.

Do you know what inspired the title? It was a line from the poem Non sum qualis eram bonae sub regno Cynarae by Ernest Dowson; the poem’s most famous line is: “I have forgot much, Cynara! gone with the wind.”

“If Gone With the Wind has a theme it is that of survival. What makes some people come through catastrophes and others, apparently just as able, strong, and brave, go under? It happens in every upheaval. Some people survive; others don’t. What qualities are in those who fight their way through triumphantly that are lacking in those that go under? I only know that survivors used to call that quality ‘gumption.’ So I wrote about people who had gumption and people who didn’t.’

Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind

2 -War and Peace by Lev Tolstoy

War and Peace, Lev Tolstoi, Napolon's invasion in Russia 1812

Praised for being very much in line with the reality, the events of War and Peace take place in 1812, during Napoleon’s invasion of Russia, and were rendered with force and expressiveness by Lev Tolstoy, especially because the author already lived the experience of war, fighting in the Crimean War. It is recommended to read in episodes, taking into account the fact that the novel has over 1000 pages.

The novel is the chronicle of three families from the high Russian aristocracy of beginning of the 19th century, Rostov, Bolkonsky and Bezuhov, whose joys, love stories and dramas take place during the Napoleonic Wars, especially the Austerlitz and Borodino battles. The book raises questions about survival and death during peace and war, as well as the necessity of war. Napoleon’s invasion of Russia destroyed million of lives on both sides, and worth mentioning is that, beside he Russian lives lost, the French army lost about half a million of soldiers of French, Italian, Belgian, German and Austrian nationalities.

A definite whirlwind of love, loss, and war.

3 – A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

7 War Books You Must Read, A Farewell to Arms, Hemingway

Hemingway’s short semi-autobiographical novel takes place on the Italian front during the First World War and describes a man’s struggles with two experiences that altered his existence in one way or another: the experience of war and that of love.

But war offers fake hopes of glory and is a lover that does not accept sharing – only by turning into a deserter can the hero hope to find true love.

It is a manifesto against the absurdity called war; it is the story of an logical man who understands that his fulfillment as a human being stands above the ambitions of those who incite towards unnecessary battles, a fulfillment that can be achieved peacefully, without weapons and without sacrificing human lives.

4 – King Rat by James Clavell

7 War Books You Must Read, James Clavell, King Rat, WWII, Singapore death camp

Believe it or not, this was the author’s literary debut. Set during World War II, the novel describes the struggle for survival of American, Australian, British, Dutch, and New Zealander prisoners of war in a Japanese death camp in Singapore. Clavell himself was a prisoner in the notorious Changi Prison camp, where the novel is set. One of the three major characters, Peter Marlowe, is based upon Clavell.

Clavell’s King Rat is a story about the struggle for survival, about friendship and hatred, in an extremely harsh, dehumanized world, in which only the strongest resist.

5 – Bridge of Spies: A True Story of the Cold War by Giles Whittell

7 War Books You Must Read, A Bridge of Spies, Giles Whittell

This is actually a 2010 nonfiction book documenting the spy prisoner exchanges between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Tom Hanks does a magnificent job as James B. Donovan under Spielberg’s direction in the 2015 movie with the same title.

Bridge of Spies, remarkably researched, tells the true story of three incredible characters and those who cross their paths: William Fisher, alias Rudolf Abel, a British born KGB agent arrested by the FBI and jailed as a Soviet superspy for trying to steal America’s nuclear secrets; Gary Powers, an American U-2 pilot captured during a reconnaissance mission over the closed cities of central Russia; and Frederic Pryor, a young American graduate student in Berlin mistakenly identified by Stasi, East Germany’s secret police, as spy, arrested and held without charge. 

Bridge of Spies is a lesson on humanity tinged by the sour taste of pathological mistrust that fuels the arms race and the political espionage.

6 – The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini, Russia invadin Afghanistan, 1979

This contemporary novel exploring the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 and the years-long struggle the Afghan people was faced with, resulting in the flight of refugees to Pakistan, Iran or America. Told through the voices of two mercenaries, the book demonstrates that although conflicts and wars change over time, carnage and destruction always remain the same.

7 – Silent Heroes, When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for by Patricia Furstenberg

7 War Books You Must Read, Silent Heroes: When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for Patricia Furstenberg

Silent Heroes looks at the War in Afghanistan through the eyes of those caught in it: US Marines, local population, and even the Taliban.

If in other novels that talk about war the collective drama is the main focus, which seems to crush the small pains of the individual, Furstenberg focuses on human interactions, placing great emphasis on the turmoil the heroes go through, be it US Marines or the Afghan populace. Silent Heroes underlines how family ties and love are the reality that will never be obliterated by war and it will always stand, no mater what forces will try to overpower life on earth.

A book not to be missed, Silent Heroes is masterfully researched and punctuated with epic description that offer a respire from the harsh realities of war. A story about humans, but about dogs too, especially the military dogs taking part in wars.

Chose as one of the 5 Books Everyone Should Read in Their Lifetime.

5 books everyone should read in their lifetime
5 books everyone should read in their lifetime, Jodi Picoult, Ken Follett, Patricia Furstenberg, Victor Hugo, Shantaram

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My Top Five Heroines of all Time

top five heroines all time

Thinking of my top five heroines of all time I only had to look into my heart.

My Number One Heroine is my Mother

A woman of outstanding achievements and utmost kindness. You have to see know many people, from all walks of life, are happy to meet her although she is retired now (she worked as head nurse in the surgery department), and how warmly and highly they speak of her, of how she has helped them or, simply, of how much kindness she showed them. My Mom is my heroine, through all of her sacrifices – those I know of and those I don’t know, yet I wish I would so that they will not be forgotten.

My Number Two Heroine is my Amazing Teen Daughter

My daughter, for her outstanding courage, optimism and perseverance. To be a teenager in today’s über-technologized world, with so much pressure on all levels is far more challenging than it was, um, years ago, when it has been my turn to emerge from my chrysalis.

Yet my daughter’s courage gets her standing tall each day and, through her optimism, she discovers something to be grateful for each evening.

My Number Three Heroine is Agatha Christie

For her unique and never-ending literary flair and for her courage and determination. I first read her Autobiography in my teen years and again, at different stages of my life. She didn’t have it easy; it took years to publish her first novel and she had to balance her writing career with a tumultuous personal life. Yet her plots are complex, well-structured and her psychological insight so profound – I do admire her for her well organized mind. “When I grow up I want to be like Agatha Christie” 🙂

Top Five Heroines Time
Dame Agatha Christie as one of My Top Five Heroines of all Time

My Number Four Heroine is a fictional character

But which one?

Scarlett O’Hara from Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell?

Remarkable, one of the strongest and most memorable female charters of classic literature. Of course, one can admire her or find her fault, or both at the same time. I will always admire her spirit and will to stay alive, to keep her own safe, and to succeed. I was a teenager when I first read this book and Scarlett’s image has followed me well into my (early) adulthood. Perhaps, unknowingly, this is one of the reasons why historical fiction had always been an interest of mine. Mitchell painted in vivid colors the end of an era and the unrest of an emerging one.

We have all mourned the loss of a specific time in our lives, be it a childhood holiday, a ritual, or a state of spirit we can never return to. And especially now, living the Covid-19 Pandemic, we do say our goodbyes to an idyllic era during which rituals were in place, life followed its course, and traditions and values were well established. Much like in Gone With the Wind, we leave the gentle South behind.
What will tomorrow bring us?

Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen?

Charming, intelligent and strong willed, Lizzie has caught my attention (and many late night reading hours) due to the question she rises for all of us. Can two such opposite personalities really find common ground and achieve happiness? And mostly, the question not answered by Austen (but the one I know I have at the back of my mind each time I read this book and looking for clues as to its answer): will they live together happily ever after?

It is a game of give and get, between Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy. Much like any relationship, isn’t it?

Claire Fraser from Outlander by Diana Gabaldon?

Yes, she is smart and stubborn, but she is also brave, determined and has high personal values and for these qualities I do admire her. I admit having read the entire Outlander series published thus far and, at one stage, I honestly felt like setting camp outside Diana’s home, waiting for “Go Tell the Bees that I’m Gone” to be finished. I tried to imagine leading a life during the 18th century yet I could not see myself having the successful – although tumultuous – existence that Claire Fraser did. Nor could I leave my children behind.
Quite a few modern life necessities and, um, amenities, like chocolate, coffee and toilet paper, would certainly hold me from taking that leap, to say the least.

Temperance Brennan from Bones by Kathy Reichs?

More than once I admitted being hooked on Kathy Reichs’ books. If you are familiar with her novels and the TV series you will admit that the two heroines are different, although both equally strong and appealing and I admire them equally.

Tempe Brennan from the TV series is young, fierce and fearless, successful too, standing on her own two feet despite her young age. I admire her for that. I think that my younger self would have identified with her.

Tempe Brennan the book character is older, independent and equally successful, intelligent and with a sharp sense of humor, although she can get herself in (life-threatening) trouble. I can identify with her now, as a more seasoned reader and as a mother too. In some of the books Tempe’s daughter tags along and Tempe does an admiring job at handling her – and if you have teens in your life you know what I mean.

My Top Five Heroines of all Time
Kathy Reichs (left), author of Temperance Brennan series and Emily Deschanel (right) star of Bones, a TV show loosely adapted from Reichs’ series. My Top Five Heroines of all Time. Image source.

My Number Five Heroine…

Are the strong women. All strong women.

The women who had their heart shredded, and who learned from their past and moved on. Women who were able to leave all pain behind, and follow their road further, stronger and sure of themselves, yet not afraid to show their feelings and that they are vulnerable because they are humans . Women who know how much they are worth and who know when they make a mistake. Women who seize the moment and make the most of each day. Women who do not seek the spotlight, but demand respect. Honest women. Women who still share their heart and follow it.

Because the heart is at the center of life.

I do hope you enjoyed reading My Top Five Heroines of all Time.

Who do you admire?

Convents: the Religious Life of Medieval Women 3/3

Convent secrets, medieval women

As part of the research for my new book I want to learn about convents and the religious life of Medieval women. So far we saw why women would join a convent as well as the amazing curriculum a convent offered. Surprised? Still, there is more to find out. Read on…

Convents – their unknown, ugly truths

Although a safe haven from married life and death through childbirth, a place where one could pursue intellectual interests, convents were often under attack especially during the Early Middle Ages mostly due to their unfortunate location – too secluded or near a landing place for invaders. Nuns were raped or killed, sometimes even burned alive within the walls of their convent.  One way to prevent rape was self-mutilation, often facial, as suicide was not a choice and martyrdom was already associated with the merit of keeping one’s virginity.

convents religious life medieval women. viking attacks

Living the secluded, routine life of a convent filled with hardships and often uncertainty, it is hard to find nuns without faults. A sexual misdeed was occasionally present. Very much like today, during the Middle Ages celibacy was not a natural condition for the vast majority of humans, only for extraordinary ones with higher goals. After the first half of the Middle Ages, nuns often underwent activities outside the convent’s walls mingling with the communards, exposed to the minstrel’s immoral songs, the laywomen’s teasing, or the savoury charms of the upper class. Often, even the wealthy ladies lodging in the convents’ guest rooms were a temptation to younger nuns through their wealth and immorality.

In the 13th century, two nuns of Godstow were excommunicated for “casting off their habits, fleeing from their house and leading a worldly and dissolute life,” as written in the Register of the Bishop.

Recent archaeological findings at Little Priory in Oxford, an 1110-1525 medieval convent, shows clear evidence of sinner nuns. British archaeologist Paul Murray and his team uncovered a woman buried outside the church grounds in a face-down position: “perhaps a penitential act to atone for her sins,” says Murray. She could be the last prioress, Katherine Wells, removed from the head of the convent by the powerful Cardinal Wolsey for a number of misdeeds, some of which might be true, some not, as Cardinal Wolsey desired to dissolve the nunnery. Wells was accused of giving birth to an illegitimate child fathered by a priest from Kent and of stealing the convent’s belonging to provide a dowry for her daughter. 

convents religious life medieval women

By the 13th century Pope Boniface VIII issued a papal bull decreeing that convents must be enclosed with cloisters and nuns should never see the secular world again, thus live more holy lives. But by then convents were self-sufficient and abbesses controlled enormous properties, holding more power than any other contemporary woman.

Love, above all. But which love?

Let’s remember that many of those who found themselves committed to a religious life while in their youth were sent to convents or monasteries by their families, and at a much younger age. They can’t be held responsible for not taking to the religious life.

A Juliet – like nun who faked her own death

Recently, medieval historians from the University of York discovered that a nun even faked her own death to escape convent life and built her own family. A Latin marginal note dating from 1318, written by archbishop William Melton in a convent’s register condemns the acts of Joan, a Benedictine nun, who “out of a malicious mind simulating a bodily illness, she pretended to be dead not dreading for the health of her soul, and with the help of numerous of her accomplices, evildoers, with malice aforethought, crafted a dummy in the likeness of her body in order to mislead the devoted faithful and she had no shame in procuring its burial in a sacred space amongst the religious of that place.” (source).

Nuns, very much like priests, had to perform a dangerous job during Medieval times as once outside the fake safety of their rocky religious walls they were exposed to a harsh, turbulent life of wars, killings, deadly diseases (Black Death), painkiller-free physical pain and no human rights or law-enforcement whatsoever. A job that certainly not everyone was cut for.

Convents and their influence on the Anthropocene

Sprouting between towns, halving distances, convents became outposts of civilisation. They encouraged the development of more towns, the creation of roads -both contributing to deforestation in Medieval Europe. By the 13th century, the geographical layout of Europe was greatly altered.

Medieval Europe deforestation. convents religious life medieval women
Medieval Europe deforestation-sharing-the-planet-humanitys-greatest-challenge-43-Sir Mark Walport-The Guardian

Not all women or young girls with a religious calling chose to become a nun and join a convent. Some became hermits, living a solitary life in the wilderness, others took only temporary vows as beguines; some became tertiaries, joining various orders while the most determined ones became anchoresses, taking a vow of living a solitary life in a cell. What ties them all is the variety of lives they chose to lead, so unlike the battered existence of medieval women, their confidence in the purpose of their relationship with God and their stoic approach in pursuing it, embracing all sacrifices.

Looking back through time and space we can certainly say that these women, through their quiet yet not silent humanity, were the true leaders of the medieval religious life. There is so much more to learn beside convents and the religious life of medieval women and I’ll return with more shared knowledge.

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Until then you might enjoy:
Looking at Skulls in the Catacombs of Paris
A Resultant Force, Women Writing about War

Convents: the Religious Life of Medieval Women 2/3

Glastonbury Abbey - convent curriculum Medieval women

I hope you enjoyed the first part of my research to learn why convents were so thought after, why the religious life (and not only) of Medieval women was so tightly connected with them.

A convent’s curriculum

Of a very high standard, a convent’s curriculum covered Latin reading and writing, religion, morals and manners. Painting, weaving, spinning, and embroidery were also taught, with the latest involving deep knowledge of geometry and design, allegories, Bible stories and even Greek mythology – all needed to create those intricate designs.

Religious themed tapestry - convents religious life medieval women

This implies that history and literature were also part of a convent’s curriculum, besides the knowledge of making and mixing colours. Some convents even studied classical writers and the seven Greek Liberal Arts: grammar, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, dialectic, rhetoric and music. Less prevalent during the Early Middle Ages was transcribing. Much later, though, some convents became renewed for their libraries and their manuscripts were circulated even outside the convent’s walls.

As was expected during a time when men went to fight wars most of the time and pursue crusades during the remainder of the time, the need for women skilled in medicine and surgery was on the rise so convents covered these too.

crusade tapestry.

Music as part of the convent life of medieval women

Promoters of Christianity, convents taught music, chants and choir songs essential to glorifying God. But music was also the means of raising funds for the cloister through donations for benefactor’s weddings or by charming wealthy women in pursuing their intellectual interests.

According to Professor Laurie Stras from Huddersfield University, during the 15th century, 20 percent of the female population of Catholic Europe lived in convents, translating into 50 percent of women of noble birth. Saint Hildegard of Bingen, a German Benedictine abbess, author, and composer, left us 11th-century musical compositions of sacred music in the simple style of the troubadours, some of the most-recorded music of its kind in modern history.

Since convents were often self-sufficient entities, a deep knowledge of the law was needed, some abbesses proving extremely skillful on this matter.

The decline in convent life starts here

By Late Middle Ages, due to the rise in the vernacular and the apparition of castle school (in 8th century due to Charlemagne), court schools, church and village public elementary schools (seeing a rise in the 12th – 13th century), or of religious guilds (in Late Middle Ages) the academic standard of the convents lowered.

As a result, the nuns become less and less skilled in numeracies and math, thusin record-keeping and so many nunneries went into debt.

Mount Saint Mitchel abbey

Convents – their daily rituals

Most convents followed the Rule of the Benedictine order: daily prayers, readings, and work, the power of a nun’s prayer often sought after and perceived as equal to that of a monk.

An abbess with absolute authority led the nuns, assisted by a prioress and a few senior nuns, obedientaries. Unlike monks, a nun could not perform a church service, thus the visit of a male priest was required. Expected to show their devotion through their simple attire, the nuns’ veil symbolised their role as “Bride of Christ”.

I hope you enjoyed this close-up in Medieval convent life and the curriculum taught. Return for the last installment of convents, the religious life Medieval women, when we will uncover a few unknown facts, some far from pretty. Why not subscribe to my newsletter?

Until then: Scarlet Autumn and Chestnuts

Convents: the Religious Life of Medieval Women 1/3

Convents - religious life of Medieval women

I am researching again, a task both exhilarating and overwhelming as I have to sieve such fascinating information and only retain the story bits that I need. I want to learn about Medieval women, especially, in the belief that women can write about war as well as take part in it. Mark Twain said: “The very ink with which history is written is merely fluid prejudice.” Hmm. So, here’s a bit of my research: Convents, the religious life of Medieval Women.

While most of us live in an era where women have freedom of speech, the right to education, to own a property, to a fair and equal wage and a life free from slavery and discrimination, let us remember that this wasn’t always the case.

After centuries-old prejudice against education for women the beliefs that women were not capable of learning or likely to use an education, medieval women had few choices and little support with regards to their own lives. When the average life expectancy was only 31 years, girls as young as 14 years were considered ripe for marriage, having no say no matter their intellectual or religious aspirations. Still, a few women resisted.

Convent of Christ in Tomar convents religious life medieval women
Convent of Christ in Tomar

Why Convents?

Convents were the first institutions to rise in the Early Middle Ages, mimicking closely the rise of monasticism in the West of Europe, from a desire to enhance celebrations of God and to expand Christianity. They came at the right time to meet the women’s need for education or for furthering their religious aspirations.

Saint Scholastica, the sister of Saint Benedict, dedicated herself to God from an early age. She spent her life in the company of other religious women and is considered the founder of the first convent during the 5th century, the women’s branch of Benedictine Monasticism. Scholastica came from a wealthy family, having the means to support herself while pursuing her religious dreams without the shadow of a forced marriage looming over her youth.

Benedict and Scholastica, Klosterkirche Elchingen. Wikipedia.  convents religious life medieval women
Benedict and Scholastica, Klosterkirche Elchingen. Wikipedia

Two centuries later the Canon laws, a set of ordinances made by the Church leadership, supported furthering the education for girls and women, directing the abbesses and the abbots to cultivate a love of reading in their communities and all members of its religious societies, male and female, to be literate in Latin.

Why join a convent?

During the Middle Ages, girls of seven years of age were sent by their families to a nunnery to gain an education until the age of 14 when they were expected to get married. Few girls dedicated their life to God to pursue a calling, like Christina of Markyate, a 12th century religious Englishwoman with visionary powers who, having made a vow of virginity in her youth and determined to resist marriage, fled to the protection of local hermits. A community of virgins grew around her, while through her spiritual and managing abilities she became the prioress of a flourishing Benedictine convent.

Some women saw in convent life the only way of pursuing their learning interests. There were also those who joined a convent to escape the dreary prospect of death through childbirth backed by marriage, often denigrated in favour of virginity. A virgin was respected more like a man than a married woman was.

And convents didn’t disappoint.

Scholarly nuns who rose to the rank of an abbess were treated as equals by men and their social class. Their voice, once silenced in their whisper, was suddenly heard through writings of treaties on logic or rhetoric, through music, even as advisors to popes, kings, and emperors, such as Hildegard of Bingen.

Yvonne Seale compiled a list of books for those who’d like to know more about the lives of medieval nuns.

Behind this door we will discover more about convents and the religious life of medieval women, like a convent’s curriculum. Soon. Stay tuned by subscribing to my blog posts.

Women Writing about War #war #womensfiction #literature #books

Women writing war fiction is a controversial topic and one close to my heart. The question I was asked most often after publishing “Silent Heroes” was: why I wrote a book about war?

To me, “Silent Heroes” is a book that asked to be written. The idea behind it began to germinate in my mind long ago. It took over two years of research and assiduous work for this book to see the printing press.

Having lived through a Revolution and the fall of the Eastern Bloc, I can see that the power of historical knowledge and historical locations is often overlooked. From my point of view, the situation in Afghanistan is of global interest. There are many similar historical hot spots throughout the world. My interest in the War in Afghanistan was stirred on understanding what a major influence the use of military dogs has on the lives of civilians. Most books written on this subject are from a military or political perspective. A retelling of true facts. I wanted to create a work of fiction that will appeal as well as stir emotions, something plausible, yet appealing to a wider category of readers.

We tend to read a book from the perspective of our own experiences. Some books, after reading them, manage to change the way we see our own life – and this is what I tried to achieve with “Silent Heroes”. Find out more about the symbolism behind its pages here.

I would rather have you ask me “why I wrote ‘Silent Heroes’, rather than “why I wrote a book on war”.

Women writers wrote about war many times over. But how many are known?

War is a part of life. As in life, there is fear in war, but there is also resilience and a raw lucidity in it.

War draws in all kinds of people, men and women, children and elderly, rich and poor. War stamps its tattoo on their lives, no questions asked, by killing their loved ones, by forcing them to relocate, to give up the mere life necessities in order to survive. To give up life, as they knew it, in order to stay alive.

Most war literature I came across during my lifetime and while researching for “Silent Heroes” and for “Joyful Trouble” before it was written by men. True accounts of battle and hardship. “War and Peace” by Russian author Leo Tolstoy must be the best known war novel. I have enjoyed Ernest Hemingway’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and loved, for its epic descriptions and sensitivity in portraying human beings and raw emotions, Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone With the Wind” in which an entire generation was wiped out by the Civil War.

The question that inevitably rose was:

What is the major difference between a war story written by a woman and one written by a man?

And I don’t mean linguistic differences.

When reading a book written by a woman, I tend to feel closer to the author than when to a male author. I find their writing style more interactive. This aspect does not involve characters, but the overall feeling I get when reading -reading for pleasure.

Male authors tend to focus on conveying information, on the courage of the soldiers, on their super-human acts and vigor and less on the emotions that trigger or haunt them. On the intensity of their pain, the taste of their passion, the gut feeling.

From a sociology-cultural point of view we are a product of our upbringing and of the society we live in. Considering ideological factors and forces, we are a product of our interactions with and of our reactions to society. It is only normal that this will reflect in a writer’s work.

What about the communications style?

Will the fact that men and women have a different communication style reflect in their writing? Much like a piece of art or a music sheet reflect the author’s core structure.

On the other hand, writing is very much a products of our biographical reading. Which brings us back to our upbringing, influencing us in everything we do.

But since we only speak of the war theme here, I think that this difference shows in the type of relationships the characters tend to built with one another.

If you look at a novel as it would be a river, I tend to see a woman’s writing running smoothly, in a fluid movement, while a man’s is almost bubbling in it’s banks. But this is only my own imaginary.

War stories are a two way narrative.

War involves those who actively take part in it and those who are sucked in it, no choice given. Soldiers and civilians. And civilians, too, deserve to be heard. Their emotions should be given a voice, too.

But what if we don’t know if a book was written by a man or a woman? Would we still be able to spot the difference? And how will that knowledge influence our perception of the book?

Again, we only look at war books here.

We are past the women’s rise to prominence during the mid-nineteenth century and past the women’s rights movements.

Do women still need to prove themselves by writing about war?

War is a topic monopolized by men authors throughout the centuries.

Four years ago The Guardian published an interesting article, “Male writers continue to dominate literary criticism, Vida study finds“, VIDA being a group of volunteers interested in drawing attention to gender inequality in the field of book reviewing. The results of the study shows that men appeared 66 percent more often in The New York Times Book Review; three times more often in the London Review of Books; The Times Literary Supplement and others had worse numbers.

If reputable publications involved in book reviewing choose less books by women, will this influence the reader’s / buyer’s choice and view of books written by women?

My view on this subject may be biased as I am both a woman and a woman writer penning stories about war. Yet I feel that little is known about war stories written by women.

Amazing fiction books on war written by women

  • Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell (for the vivid image of how much the American Civil War changed people’s lives and characters)
  • Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain (an entire generation changed by WW1)
  • The Story of a Brief Marriage by Anuk Arudpragasam (for its hypnotic details of the Sri Lankan Civil War)
  • The Gold Lieutenant by Whitney Terrell (for depicting so truthfully the surviving nature of women during the Iraq War)
  • Suite Française by Irène Némirovsky (filled with the human sensitivity that often escapes WW2 written by an author who, sadly, died in the concentration camp at Auschwitz)
  • Nella Last’s war by Nella Last, an inside view of WW2 from a civilian’s point of view.
  • The People of Forever are Not Afraid by Shani Boianjiu (a touching tale of teenagers’ experiences in the Israeli Defense Forces)
  • The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli (an amazing novel about the Vietnam War).
  • The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank (although an autobiography, is a must-read portrayal of the Holocaust)
  • Transcription by Kate Atkinson (a great spy novel of WW2)
  • The Night Watch by Sarah Waters (a great historical fiction set during WW2 London)
  • Goodnight Mr Tom by Michelle Magorian (an amazing WW2 read for children over the age of 10, especially boys)
  • A Boy in Winter by Rachel Seiffert (set during the WW2 occupation of Ukraine and Longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2018)
  • Good Evening, Mrs Craven: Wartime Stories by Mollie Panter-Donnes (short stories written during WW2)
  • The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obrecht (set during in an unnamed Balkan country experiencing a rebirth after the collapse of communism).
  • Can you Hear the Nightbird Call? by Anita Rau Badami how three women survive the rise of the Sikh separatists in India).
  • Sparta by Roxana Robinson (about a war veteran’s battle with PTSD after the Iraq War).
  • Bel Canto by Ann Patchett (for the humanity shared by different cultures when held hostage by terrorists)
  • Silent Heroes by Patricia Furstenberg (on the strong connections between US Marines and the Afghan civilians during the Afghanistan War).