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Sacred Hearts: A Novel Audio CD – Audiobook, Unabridged
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From Publishers Weekly
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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
From Bookmarks Magazine
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. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Top customer reviews
The Benedictine convent Santa Caterina in 15th Century Ferrara, Italy, searches for the heart of Christian living through music and purposefully limited interaction with the world around them. But their greatest strengths lie in their music, singing, and poetry of their regular devotional performances that inspire the nobles of Ferrara two or three times a year, but which thrill the nuns. And the greater virtue of Suora Zuana’s herbal medicine and skills in the infirmary. And the creative leadership of the abbess, Madonna Chiara. There is living saint Suora Magdalena, strictly dedicated novice mistress Suora Umiliana, musical composer Suora Benedicta, and poet and scriptorium supervisor Suora Scholastica. They make a placidly perfect picture of a well-functioning convent. But then enter the young sixteen-year-old Serafina, whose wailing and door-pounding frustration disrupt the peaceful pursuits of all therein. Though so far this summary sounds like a comedy, it is far from comic, for Zuana’s own longings somehow resonate to the pain of the love lost by Serafina. We are drawn into the complex conflicts among soul and body, ambition and loyalty, leader and follower. Four interesting characterizations hold the reader: Zuana foremost, but Serafina, Chiara, and Umiliana all have their moments. Dunant writes perceptively and sensitively. And the reader can learn a lot about herbal medicines in the bargain.
Dunant's pen is a magic wand. Poof !
one minute your opening a book on your 2016 livingroom. miutes later you're in 1577 Italty in a Cloistered convent.
the smoke from The Stake of a lingering Inquisition is being penetrated by the first rays of The Age of Enlightenment.
not a Convenient time for a Romeo to meet his Juliet.
in this book you meet Saints and Devils and would-be Martyrs playing to their spiritual groupies.
Dunants historical Timescape, along with her Characters are so aLive.
she writes history That Breaths !
The beginning of the book started out with great promise and I enjoyed reading about convent life and especially about the inhabitants of the convent. Unfortunately, the book started to lag and I found myself moving through the novel at a painfully slow pace. As the plot began to pick up the character's actions did not seem to fit within their personalities. The ending of the book also seemed a bit contrived within the context of the rest of the book.
Another small complaint is the lack of description of the attire of the nuns. I had to google it to get an idea of the clothing they wore. However, Zuana's hands are described so repetitively and in such great detail I feel as if I could pick them up out of a line up. Also in the first 75 or so pages I had to flip back and forth to remind myself who each nun was as small tidbits about their life and history were added to the story.
All in all, as a Dunant Fan it was worth a read but I would not recommend it to new readers.