Press for Ecstasy



The Composer Alma Mahler: What’s Her Name Podcast in Conversation with Mary Sharratt

13 reasons to get excited about Twin Cities arts in 2018 in the Minneapolis Star Tribune

Minnesota native Sharratt has built a career writing meticulously researched, fascinating historical novels about strong women forgotten by time. “Illuminations” (2012) brought to life 12th-century German mystic Hildegard von Bingen. “The Dark Lady’s Mask” (2016) might have solved the question of the identity of Shakespeare’s muse: poet Aemilia Bassano Lanier. “Ecstasy” takes up the cause of Alma Schindler, a composer in turn-of-the-century Vienna. Men fall at her feet — painter Gustav Klimt, composer Gustav Mahler, Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius, poet Franz Werfel — but Alma dreams of becoming a composer. She falls in love with Mahler, who demands she give up music if they are to marry. This book comes out from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and I, for one, cannot wait.

Laurie Hertzel, Senior Books Editor

Mary Sharratt Writes Women Back into History in the Chicago Review of Books

Sharratt’s ‘Ecstasy’ notes life of woman who gave up music for Mahler in the St. Paul Pioneer Press

Writing About the Ultimate Party Girl Made Me Realize How Much We Limit Women in Electric Literature

Know Their Names: Women Composers Neglected By History in Catapult

Transporting Readers to Another World in The Big Thrill

Read Mary’s interview on Hook of a Book


Press for The Dark Lady’s Mask: A Novel of Shakespeare’s Muse


Novel casts fresh light on Shakespeare’s Dark Lady on Minnesota Public Radio. (Article and audio download.)

Minnesota Native takes a fictional look at Shakespeare’s Dark Lady in the Saint Paul Pioneer Press.

On the Trail of Shakespeare’s Hidden Partner in The Big Thrill.


Press for Illuminations: A Novel of Hildegard von Bingen


Read Claire Kirch’s profile of Mary in Publishers Weekly.

Read Mary’s interview in Her Circle Ezine.

Read Mary’s article “Eight Reasons Why Hildegard Matters Now” in the Huffington Post.

The Fall 2012 edition of Namaste Insights is dedicated to Hildegard and includes Mary’s interview with theologian Matthew Fox.

A nun’s story inspires a novel. Feature article in Minneapolis Star-Tribune.


Press for Daughters of the Witching Hill


Publishers Weekly

PUBLISHERS WEEKLY: Starred Review, December 14, 2009 Starred<br /><br /><br /> 						Review Daughters of the Witching Hill by Mary Sharratt. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $24 (352p) ISBN 978-0-547-06967-8 The 1612 Lancashire, England, witch trials that resulted in nine executions inspires Sharratt’s gorgeously imagined novel that wonders if some of the accusations of witchcraft might be true. Sharratt (The Vanishing Point) focuses on the Southerns family of Pendle Forest. Widowed mother Bess Southerns tries to save her family from bleakest poverty by healing the sick, telling fortunes, and blessing those facing misfortune, conjuring “charmes” that combine forbidden Catholic ritual, medicinal herbs, and guidance provided by her spirit-friend, Tibb. Though Bess compassionately uses her powers, her granddaughter, Alizon, unwittingly endangers her family while under the interrogation of a conniving local magistrate. Sharratt crafts her complex yet credible account by seamlessly blending historical fact, modern psychology, and vivid evocations of the daily life of the poor whose only hope of empowerment lay in the black arts. Set in forests and towers, farms and villages, deep in a dungeon and on the gallows, this novel grows darker as it approaches its inevitable conclusion, but proves uplifting in its portrayal of women who persevere, and mothers and daughters who forgive. (Apr.)

When Minnesotan Mary Sharratt moved to England, she was soon bewitched
. Feature article in Saint Paul Pioneer Press.

Pendle Witches Cast Their Spell on American Author. Feature article in Lancashire Telegraph.

How I Became a Daughter of the Witching Hill. Article on


Press for Summit Avenue


A Fairy Tale for Grown-ups

Mary Sharratt’s turn-of-the-century Summit Avenue explores feminism, classism, and sexuality during W.W.I. 

By Terri Foley

Set in the Twin Cities during World War I, Summit Avenue (Coffee House Press, $14.95) is a fictional journal of Kathrin, a 22-year-old German immigrant who describes herself as a crone who lives in the woods like a “witch in a fairy tale.” “You can read the book as an immigrant story, a woman’s quest novel, a love story, or an archetypal fable,” says author Mary Sharratt, a Minnesota native who now lives in California. “I wanted it to be a bit of a hologram, so that you can look down and see its different layers.”

Kathrin begins her American life at the Pillsbury mill sewing flour bags by day and learning English by night. She finds refuge from the hard mill life in an antiquarian book store, and she is befriended by the immigrant owners Jan Jelinek and his nephew, John. One night, Violet Waverly, a wealthy and enigmatic widow who lives on Summit Avenue, comes into the bookstore and launches the young maiden on a trek of self-discovery.

Fans of Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ Women Who Run with the Wolves, the popular Jungian analysis of female images in folk tales, will appreciate Sharratt’s weaving of the Baba Yaga and Vasalisa initiation story throughout the book. Instead of being sent like Vasalisa into the forest by her stepmother to bring back fire from Baba Yaga’s castle, Kathrin has been sent by her favorite uncle to America after her mother dies to find a better life.

“Violet is the sorceress and Kathrin is the girl with the fire that both illuminates and terrifies her,” Sharratt explains. “First she runs away, but then she comes into her power, returning to the house in the forest.”

The ending has raised questions from many readers. “I intended it to be a very positive, hopeful ending, but the different ways that readers have responded to it has been a big surprise,” she says. “People have asked for a sequel, and I probably will do one because the ending seems to have raised so many questions. The sequel I’m considering will be from Kathrin’s daughter’s perspective.”

Sharratt is working on a second novel with roots in Minnesota. Set in the 1920s, it tells the story of how three strong-willed women rebel against the structure of their small town and end up changing the community.

Sharratt grew up in Bloomington, but lived in Germany for many years. “I didn’t choose writing. It kind of chose me,” she says. “I was living in a different country and I didn’t have a television set. I’d run out of English books to read because they’re very expensive, so for relaxation in the evenings I started writing. And over a very long time, I ended up writing my own book.”

Originally published in Minnesota Monthly – January 2002