Listen to Margaret reading from The Greening on BBC Radio Gloucester
Margaret Coles talks to Hardeep Singh Kohli on BBC Radio 2.
The Greening is a spiritual novel set in the present day and inspired by the teachings of Julian of Norwich. Joanna, a newspaper journalist with an unforgiving boss and a complicated love life, discovers a mysterious journal. The journal details a life-changing encounter with Julian, whose devotion to truth stirs Joanna, recalling her own, neglected ambition to pursue the truth through her reporting.
Still, Julian of Norwich is from an alien world - can Joanna believe the promise that suffering can lead to peace and contentment? Feeling that only the journal’s author can answer her questions, Joanna sets off to find her.
The Greening is £8.99 in print and £2.99 in ebook formats. Follow the links below to order your copy:
Click here to hear Margaret Coles talk to the BBC’s Woman’s Hour about Julian of Norwich.
Read Margaret’s article about Julian of Norwich in The Times (11 May 2013)
An interview with Margaret Coles
What is it about Julian of Norwich that inspires you?
Julian inspires me because she was so courageous and so unwavering in her dedication to her mission. She took a great risk in writing her book. She lived under the absolute authority, both spiritual and temporal, of Henry Despenser, the Bishop of Norwich. Known as the ‘Battling Bishop’, he was a brutal man and a clever politician who had the gift of turning even dire circumstances to his advantage. Despenser was selling indulgences - documents guaranteed to relieve the purchaser of serving time in purgatory - to finance his activities in the Crusades; if Julian’s revelation of God’s unconditional forgiveness had been made public it would have seriously compromised his trade. Julian needed to be clever enough to hide her cleverness and to appear to submit to Despenser’s will. This she evidently did.
A brief history of Julian of Norwich
On 8 May, 1373, during a severe illness that brought her close to death, Julian of Norwich received a series of visions of the crucifixion. The message entrusted to her was revolutionary and profound. She needed privacy and seclusion to ponder and interpret its meaning, so she became an anchoress, or hermit, living in a little cell attached to St Julian’s Church, where she offered comfort and advice to those who came to her window.
She entered the cell at the age of thirty, and during the remainder of her life she wrote her book, The Revelations of Divine Love. It was the first book written in English by a woman. She had to write in secret because the message she conveyed ran counter to the orthodoxy of the time. Had she been discovered, she would have been branded a heretic and burnt at the stake.
Julian’s book was hidden from the world for six hundred years. It is only in the past century, and particularly in the past few decades, that her book has been published and distributed widely throughout the world. Today Julian’s wisdom teaching is celebrated as a spiritual classic.
About Margaret Coles
Margaret Coles is a writer, journalist and broadcaster. She was a television and radio reporter and presenter at the BBC, where she worked on the flagship news programme Today, The World At One, PM, Woman’s Hour and Newsnight. At the World Service she presented current affairs, science and arts programmes. Subsequently she was for several years a business columnist at The Sunday Times.
Margaret now writes for the theatre, her first love, where she began her career as an actress. Her stage plays include Senghenydd, the story of Britain’s biggest mining disaster, first performed at the Sherman Theatre, Cardiff, and The Queen’s Fool - about a young Elizabeth I and her woman fool - co-written with Susan Evans and first performed at the Lilian Baylis Theatre, Sadler’s Wells. She also has a media consultancy, lectures journalism students, gives talks at conferences and business clubs and runs creative writing and storytelling workshops.
Margaret’s leisure hours are occupied by family, friends, theatre, choral singing, hill walking, reading, sketching and enjoying her garden.
A short documentary on Julian of Norwich, by Britt Robinson
The Greening: Chapter 1
“What do you want me to do? Trip her up at the airport? Lace her tea with arsenic? Stab her with a poisoned umbrella?” The newsroom fell silent as the other reporters waited to hear who would win this round in my ongoing battle with the News Editor.
“You’re bloody useless, Meredith,” said Milo, bringing his face uncomfortably close to mine. I could smell the whisky on his breath. “Joanna Useless Meredith, not a bloody clue.”
My interviewee had pulled out with barely any notice, sending a message to say she had to leave urgently for South-East Asia. The interview with Ismene Vale, a distinguished anthropologist and environmentalist, had been scheduled for a two-page spread to be published the following day. The Editor would be furious.