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Starred Review. Dunant (The Birth of Venus) revisits 16th-century Italy, where the convents are filled with the daughters of noblemen who are unable or unwilling to pay a dowry to marry them off. The Santa Caterina convent's newest novice, Serafina, is miserable, having been shunted off by her father to separate her from a forbidden romance. She also has a singing voice that will be the glory of the convent and—more importantly to some—a substantial bonus for the convent's coffers. The convent's apothecary, Suora Zuana, strikes up a friendship with Serafina, enlisting her as an assistant in the convent dispensary and herb garden, but despite Zuana's attempts to help the girl adjust, Serafina remains focused on escaping. Serafina's constant struggle and her faith (of a type different from that common to convents) challenge Zuana's worldview and the political structure of Santa Caterina. A cast of complex characters breathe new life into the classic star-crossed lovers trope while affording readers a look at a facet of Renaissance life beyond the far more common viscounts and courtesans. Dunant's an accomplished storyteller, and this is a rich and rewarding novel. (Aug.)
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British author Dunant expertly weaves the rhythms of daily convent life within the broader context of church politics and reform. Most critics were pleasantly surprised that a novel set in a nunnery could be fraught with such tension as they wondered, a bit nervously, about Serafina's ultimate fate. Dunant continues to create believable characters who were also very much women of their time. Several reviewers noted a sluggish beginning and occasional dry passages, but they believed readers would be rewarded for their patience. Ultimately, critics hailed Dunant as a skilled historian and accomplished storyteller who has written another engrossing, rewarding tale of the Italian Renaissance.See all Editorial Reviews
I enjoyed it very much both the writing and the plot. The problem of young women in 16th century Italy being forced to enter a nunnery was confronting. Read morePublished 17 days ago by Valerie
Beautifully written, as are all of her works. I thoroughly enjoy the historical aspects.Published 18 days ago by Judith A. Penney
It is very difficult to write a novel that revolves around religion, but Sarah Dunant navigates brilliantly between fruity sentimentality and outright skepticism. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Daniel Fulmer
Who knew the world of cloistered nuns could be so intriguing?! Excellent blend of action and history. Very well written.Published 4 months ago by Loli
A bit melodramatic for my taste although it seems that the author researched the church and politics of the time.Published 6 months ago by Diane Keller
Very interesting insight into convent life and the lives of women in the 1500's.Published 7 months ago by Amazon Customer
Very different from what I normally read. kind of intense. really enjoyed itPublished 7 months ago by Rosemary Reeves