The underlying theme of this novella is Lady Julian’s dark night of the soul. As with other mystics who came after her, e.g., St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Calcutta, Julian abides in a cloud of unknowing, praying daily that her darkness be dispelled by divine light.
In her secret journal (because women are forbidden to write in English) the great English mystic chronicles her inner life, including her relationship with the “courteous Lord,” who when she was young was a constant presence in her life, but now in her old age feels to be more of a constant absence, Deus Absconditus.
There are two windows in Lady Julian’s anchorage: one looks upon the interior of St. Julian’s Church with its high altar and tabernacle; the other opens onto the city of Norwich with its publicans, sinners, poor, people in the marketplace, and neighbors. Among these there are those in deep distress who find their way to Lady Julian, now famous for her wisdom and holy counsel. There is the young woman with a child outside of marriage. There is a wounded young soldier, jobless, homeless, and afraid. There is a man who has betrayed his betrothed. And others. No one leaves Julian’s window without psychological and spiritual uplifting.