Blog Tours Extract

EXTRACT: I, Julian by Claire Gilbert

Published April 13th, 2023 by Hodder & Stoughton
Historical Fiction, Christian Fiction, Biographical Fiction

For my stop on the blog tour for I, Julian I am delighted to share an exclusive extract with you all. Thank you to Rhoda Hardie PR for the invitation to take part and to Hodder & Stoughton for the gifted copy of the book.



*This extract describes the moment when Julian, after a funeral-like service to mark her farewell to the world, is bricked up in the anchorhold attached to the cathedral where she will spend the rest of her life*

There is a quiet rustling of clothes and patter of feet as the people leave the church, then the thin cry of a baby rises, piercing the silence: is it a cry of pain or for new life or both? The cry leaves the church with the people and silence returns.

I rise and release the curtain over the squint and I turn to face my cell, my coffin, my small home.


I have never felt so fully alive.


I am not expecting this. I was expecting to feel tortured by confinement at this moment, as the portal is bricked up, the impervious walls pressing upon me like the walls of my home with Martin in the city, my breath short and shallow, and panic only just kept under control. But the panic I felt when I first kneeled has gone.
At last, at last I am alone, I am at home. My breath is deep and satisfying, like drinking delicious clean water and slaking a thirst I hardly knew I had. I stand in the vast space that feels like the cathedral, made bigger not smaller by the walls, and it is all my own. Grateful relief floods through me like a balm. At last, I can ask the world to recede, and it will. All I have to do is to close the curtain and I will be left in peace. Dona nobis pacem. So much space, just for me. And warm! A fire has been lit in the little fireplace, life in new death. I reach with careful fingertips and touch the east wall where my altar stands beneath my crucifix, towards the dawn, towards new life, towards God.
I kneel, and weep tears of joy and speak words of thanks, for the time that is granted me here, now. Time, and space, and strength, for the long, slow interior journey. I have come home.’


‘So I will write in English, pressing new words from this beautiful plain language spoken by all. Not courtly French to introduce God politely. Not church Latin to construct arguments. English to show it as it is. Even though it is not safe to do so.’

From the author of Miles to Go before I Sleep comes I, Julianthe account of a medieval woman who dares to tell her own story, battling grief, plague, the church and societal expectations to do so. Compelled by the powerful visions she had when close to death, Julian finds a way to live a life of freedom – as an anchoress, bricked up in a small room on the side of a church – and to write of what she has seen. The result, passed from hand to hand, is the first book to be written by a woman in English.

Tender, luminous, meditative and powerful, Julian writes of her love for God, and God’s love for the whole of creation. ‘All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.’

‘Written with profound insight, spiritual and psychological, and a rare sensitivity to the everyday world of the fourteenth century, I, Julian is a brilliantly illuminating companion to one of the greatest works of spiritual writing in English.’ Rowan Williams, Magdalene College, Cambridge University



Claire Gilbert grew up in London of English, Jewish, Scottish and Spanish heritage. She writes and speaks about ethics and spirituality in politics and public service, medicine, ecology and on Julian of Norwich. She is founding Director of Westminster Abbey Institute for ethics in public life. With her husband Seán she divides her time between London, Hastings and the west of Ireland.




Thanks for reading Bibliophiles xxxx

Please check out the reviews from the other bloggers taking part in the tour.

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