Sacred Hearts; Sarah Dunant
The year was 1570, and Santa Caterina's convent in Ferrara, near Venice, Italy, is the setting for Sarah Dunant latest novel, Sacred Hearts.
A wedding dowry was so expensive, that even a noblewomen could be forced to live her adult life in a convent. So was the case for Serafina, the beautiful, passionate, but rebellious new novice, sent to Santa Caterina by her parents against her will. At age sixteen, Serafina is forced into convent life, after her parents marry off her sister, but send her to the convent, forcing her to leave behind the man that she loves. Serafina's rebellious spirit is not ready to accept this prison-like fate without a fight, and it isn't long before she begins thinking about her escape. When Serafina becomes hysterical and full of rage on her first night at the convent, another nun, Suora Zuana, an expert in herbal remedies is sent from the dispensary to calm and sedate the young novice using some herbal remedies. Before long the two women form a special, but complex bond.
One thing is for sure, the religious community of Santa Caterina is not prepared for the upheaval the newest novice will cause. Soon even those nuns who have already pretty much accepted their fate, become painfully aware of their own disappointments and missed opportunities, and tension at the once peaceful convent mounts.
MY THOUGHTS - This is my first book by Sarah Dunant, but it will not be my last. The novel took me well over two weeks to finish, reading both the print version and listening to the audio version -- both were very good. The story was addictive, but yet some parts seem to drag a bit, so I would find myself reading it in shorter spurts. The story was rich in historical detail, and I became totally absorbed in even the most minute details of what convent life was like in the 16th century. The characters were complex and interesting, and the tortuous rituals that were detailed, were at times numbing. I could not help but be thankful for the fact that I, as a young woman, had options unlike the women in this story. This book is RECOMMENDED - 4/5 stars.
(Review copy provided by Random House via Shelf Awareness. Audio was from my local library)