Friday, February 12, 2010

23 - Sacred Hearts; Sarah Dunant






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)

26 comments:

  1. Boy, am I glad times have changed and women have more options now. This book sounds fascinating!

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  2. I'm so glad you liked it! I really loved it, to my surprise!

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  3. I really enjoyed this book & especially loved all the intimate period detail that went into the world building. You usually think about that with sci-fi - it was cool to see it so intricate and layered in historical fiction.

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  4. Glad you enjoyed this one! It sounds really interesting!

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  5. I had a book club member recommend this one. She was fascinated with it. I think I will try to find this one soon. Thanks for your thoughts.

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  6. I read this about four months back and also found it dragged in places. I like the description of convent life at that time but am so very glad that I am living in present times. I studied myself at a convent school but hopefully life has changed also for the nuns!

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  7. I enjoyed The Birth of Venus and expect I would like this. (Do you read along with the book while the audio is playing? or did you read then listen or ???

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  8. I can't wait to read my copy now. I am pleased we don't still live like that too.

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  9. I think I wont this book last summer and I haven't gotten to it yet. Is this the same author that wrote The Red Tent? I did love that book!

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  10. Care....When I have both the print version and the audio version of the same book, I read the print copy, and then pick up when I left off on audio when I walk, clean, and in bed, before I fall asleep at night. It works well for me, and it's a nice change of pace.

    Nan....The author of The Red Tent was Anita Diamant.

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  11. Mystica...Thanks for leaving a comment, but for some reason, I am not able to comment on your blog. Are you aware of that?

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  12. I too sometimes do both audio and print at the same time! I have this in print, maybe I'll double up with the audio too.

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  13. Beth,

    I especially like having the audio and the print copy when the book is more than 300 pages. It breaks it up a bit, and I find makes longer books more interesting.

    I got Under the Dome (1,000+ pages) for my Kindle and it has text to speech enabled, so that is a plus...LOL

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  14. Thanks for the great review. I've had my eye on this book for a while.

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  15. I gave this book 4/5 too. It was a fascinating read and I will be reading more Sarah Dunant books in the future too. I look forward to finding out which ones you decide to read first!

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  16. I have picked this book up and put it down many times. I just might read it the next time.

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  17. Yeah! Glad to see you liked this one. I own it, but haven't gotten around to it yet. Maybe soon...

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  18. I really love the cover on this. Wonderful review, Diane! It sounds very interesting and perfect when in the mood for a great historical read!

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  19. I've never juggled print and audio of the same book; I'll try it on a longer book, as you suggest.

    Glad you were so taken with SACRED HEARTS, it's on my wish list.

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  20. Thanks for informing me re the comments section. I went back and I hope its ok now.

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  21. I'm forever looking for new historical fiction to read. This one sounds like a good one, thanks for the review! :)

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  22. Makes me glad I live now instead of then! : )

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  23. I am glad you liked this book! I really liked it too, though I agree that it was a rather dense read. What did you think about the ending? I thought it was a bit contrived, but it didn't ruin the book for me. Great review!

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  24. Heather, I had a feeling the ending would be at least something similar to how it ended. It wasn't a WOW, for me.

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  25. I'm actually going to order this today. I keep meaning to and now you have twisted my arm. Thanks. I love Dunant!!

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  26. Glad to see you enjoyed it. I received a copy unexpectedly awhile back, and I'm looking forward to reading it.

    --Anna
    Diary of an Eccentric

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