For Thy Great Pain Have Mercy On My Small Pain – Victoria MacKenzie

Published By: Bloomsbury
Pages: 176
Released On: 19/01/2023

In the year of 1413, two women meet for the first time in the city of Norwich. 

Margery has left her fourteen children and husband behind to make her journey. Her visions of Christ – which have long alienated her from her family and neighbours, and incurred her husband’s abuse – have placed her in danger with the men of the Church, who have begun to hound her as a heretic.

Julian, an anchoress, has not left Norwich, nor the cell to which she has been confined, for twenty-­three years. She has told no one of her own visions – and knows that time is running out for her to do so.

The two women have stories to tell one another. Stories about girlhood, motherhood, sickness, loss, doubt and belief; revelations more powerful than the world is ready to hear. Their meeting will change everything.

Sensual, vivid and humane, For Thy Great Pain Have Mercy On My Little Pain cracks history open to reveal the lives of two extraordinary women.


There is no getting away from this book, it is everywhere you look. And there’s a good reason for that. It’s fabulous. What a debut!

It’s book like this that make me desperate to write a historical novel. It’s so amazing and feels so full, even though it’s only 170-odd pages. You can see Victoria’s passion through every word. It’s informative and exciting and raw and unflinching. Just image what she could do with double the page length.

It manages to pack so much love and detail and passion and information in such a short book, which is testament to her writing ability. There’s nothing surplus in there. Every word has been chosen very carefully to ensure the book flows well.

Now I didn’t know of these two women before reading this, and therefore don’t know how historically accurate it is. But coming from and outsider position, it sounds so believable, with such meticulous detail that one surely could not have convincingly made up. Itnspoke so much to me that when I finished, I went online and ordered both Julian and Margery’s books.

There’s no reading to the end of the chapter here. It’s split into sections, the main one being over 100 pages long. It flits between the two women, sometimes within the same page. That may sound confusing but it wasn’t at all. I immediately knew where I was. It felt like a completely natural way to tell this story.

There’s not a great big complicated plot. It’s the comings and goings of two women, their families and their faith. But what we do get is gentle but hard, honest and raw. We don’t get a long list of harassers either. We get two women learning to navigate their believes and their way of living.

To have this much passion (I’m aware I use this word frequently in this review but there’s nothing else to describe it) that you risk being named a heretic and you risk death at every corner, to keep true to what you believe when it could destroy everything, is so extraordinary to see. To have that much faith; faith in God, in teachings, in words, and in yourself.

These are the types of women I like to read about. The women who won’t accept the limitations put on them by their era just because of their sex. They are women of the future but stuck in the past.

Someone who doesn’t believe in God may have trouble with this book. It doesn’t require a faith to read it, but I think it requires an open mind to fully appreciate its meaning. One must be able to accept that some people believe – some to an extreme extent – and some don’t.

It is brief but beautiful, unbelievable but uncomplicated, private and public, hysterical and honoured. It is then and it is now.

Even after writing this review, I find it difficult to fully explain what I thought of this book. It’s not quite as simple as saying “it was a good book” or “the characters are interesting”. It’s got a far deeper message than that, but I think it’s a message one can only fully appreciate having read it themselves.

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