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Sacred Hearts: A Novel (Random House Reader's Circle) Paperback – April 6, 2010
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Top Customer Reviews
This was a wonderful & thought-provoking book. The characters (even the minor ones) are fully fleshed. The setting is used to the greatest advantage in the telling of the story - the claustrophobia of it, the beauty of it, the sense of the town & the outside world pressing against the convent walls. I loved learning about the day-to-day lives of these nuns & the ways they learned to live fully (or not so fully) in their world. The story of the dispensary sister, her garden, her remedies (learned from her doctor father) was also fascinating - I loved learning about how all kinds of cures were made. It's interesting to realize how many of these cures are still in use today in one form or another.
It is sobering to note that many of these women were walled up in convents against their will, to increase the dowries of a sibling or because they were disfigured, or just not very pretty, or not very smart or - perhaps worst of all - far too smart & talented. We've certainly come a long way. & yet despite the narrow confines of the nunnery & the narrowly defined roles assigned to these women they created full & rich lives & found ways to govern themselves, to make music & art, & to in many ways remove themselves from the world of men.
This was a moving story & a fascinating look into another world. Highly recommended.
While the abbess, Madonna Chiara, weighs the implications of the Counter-Reformation and interfaces with life outside the convent, other personalities dominate convent life in Renaissance Italy: the fierce mistress of novices, Suora Umiliana, who heartily believes that starving the body will bring the soul closer to God; Suora Zuana, a healer whose herbs bring comfort to ailing nuns; Suora Magdalena, who is visited by visions in her humble cell; and Suora Perseveranza, who espouses "the music of suffering". All of these characters are impacted by the new novice who wails against her fate. Serafina resists her imprisonment in the insular world of convent life, a pawn of fortune and her father's will. Suora Zuana attempts to comfort the grieving novice, touched by Sarafina's palpable despair.
As in her previous novels, Dunant doesn't disappoint, breathing life in to 16th century Italy behind thick convents walls. In Santa Caterina, even the holy nuns cannot escape their flaws, exacerbated by the tortured days of the reluctant novice, who suffers the unimaginable torments of her isolation from the world and the man she loves.Read more ›
Pure is not the word that comes to mind when the reader is introduced to the sisters in SACRED HEARTS, the third of Sarah Dunant's wonderful historical novels (her previous two took place in Florence and Venice; this one in Ferrara) --- they are altogether more worldly souls. In the late 16th century, it seems, extraordinary faith was not a prerequisite for taking vows; often nuns were women who were simply losers in the marriage market. Perhaps they suffered from physical disabilities (cleft lip, twisted spine), or they were from families that couldn't afford to see them properly wed (in an Author's Note we learn that dowries had become so inflated that by 1600 nearly half of Italian noblewomen were destined to become nuns!).
Although some convents at the time were humble affairs, Santa Caterina, the fictional setting for SACRED HEARTS, is hardly a closed-off spiritual enclave. One nun has a pet dog; others write plays and compose choral music; all are able, on designated occasions, to meet face-to-face with family.Their cells, often containing such amenities as books, carpets and satin sheets, are cleaned by lay servants.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
After a long time, I read a truly good book that kept me absorbed, and wanting to come back to it.
Had just seen a convent last year in Peru, so this really helped to put a... Read more
I just finished this for my book club. Thank goodness I was a religious studies major in college. I would have been lost. Read morePublished 29 days ago by Captain Poolie
I enjoyed the book. Some of the characters were more like caricatures, but I came away loving the main character.Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
The list of sisters becomes confusing and in depth character portrayal only exists for a few characters which I did love. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Debra Rood
Love, love, love Dunant's style of writing....it's as if she is actually in that period and experiencing it directly. Great research for a perfectly beautiful historical novel.Published 6 months ago by Kathryn V. Isherwood
fascinating. A nun recommended it. Good thing times have changed.Published 9 months ago by Avenue Suffren
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 11 months ago by Valerie
Beautifully written, as are all of her works. I thoroughly enjoy the historical aspects.Published 11 months 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 11 months ago by Daniel Fulmer