This book by Hilda Graef was a much denser read than Jaroslav Pelikan’s Mary Through the Centuries, but as a thorough history of Marian doctrine, it was much more satisfying and presents a much fuller and historically continuous study of the way that Christian thought about Mary has unfolded.
While some may think that Graef gives undue attention to the medieval exaggerations, I also appreciated the author’s frank treatment of the excesses which Marian devotion has sometimes–especially during the late middle ages–fallen into. In fact, the exaggerations helped, by contrast, to illustrate what a properly balanced theological understanding of Mary ought to look like.
Graef’s accounts of Marian apparitions are fairly skeptical, though, and she seems to have a general preference for naturalistic explanations. While this was a fairly satisfactory alternative to over-credulity, I would also look elsewhere for a more sympathetic approach to the subject of Marian apparitions.
Hilda Graef was a German of Jewish and Protestant ancestry who found her way into the Catholic Church as a young adult through the writings of Thomas Aquinas, St. John of the Cross, and G.K. Chesterton. During World War II, Graef fled to London in order to escape the threat of the Nazis. While in London, she wrote from an attic home that she described as frequently shaken by bombs. Graef later moved to Oxford and worked as assistant to the editor of the Lexicon of Patristic Greek.