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Friday, January 7, 2011

Audiobook Review: Sacred Hearts by Sarah Dunant

Sacred Hearts by Sarah Dunant
Unabridged, 15 hrs.
Random House Audio
Rosalyn Landor (narrator)
July 14, 2009
goodreads button

Genre: Historical Fiction

Source: Digital download from my library
“From Sarah Dunant, acclaimed author of The Birth of Venus and In the Company of the Courtesan, comes an engrossing new novel set in a convent in Renaissance Italy where a defiant sixeteen-year-old girl has just been confined against her will--for life. Santa Caterina's new novice sets in motion a chain of events that will shake the convent to its core. 
Serafina, a willful, emotional & furious girl, has just been ripped from her proposed marriage and sent by her noble family to Santa Caterina. During her first night inside, such is her violent, incandescent rage that the dispensary mistress, Suora Zuana, is sent to her cell to calm her with a draft of herbs. Thus begins a complex relationship of trust and betrayal. And while outside the convent walls the forces of the Counter-Reformation push for ever more repressive changes, Serafina's rebellious spirit challenges not only Zuana but many other nuns who have made peace with the isolated life. 
A rich, captivating, multifaceted love story, Sacred Hearts is a novel about power, creativity, passion -- both secular and spiritual -- and the indomitable spirit of women in an age when religious, political, and social forces were all stacked against them.”
I am going to say this right up front before we go anywhere so you are prepared for what comes next – I really, really did not enjoy this book and this is to be my first truly negative review. There were so many things for me that did not work in this book, so let’s start at the beginning.

The beginning was very hard to get into. There is A LOT of description and it crawls ahead at a snails pace. I honestly have no idea how the story began because I started reading this book at the beginning of November and it took me over a month and a half to read it. At several times throughout the book I was ready to put it down and call it quits but I kept thinking, “Maybe it will pick up soon”. If I had been reading this in paper copy I definitely would have.

So many times throughout this audiobook I would find that I was spacing out because it wasn’t holding my attention. There isn’t a lot of action in this story and that would be fine if it was a character driven story and I was lead to really care about the characters. The story did pick up slightly toward the very end where some events did occur (I would hesitate to call it action), but by that time I had lost all my interest in the book and just wanted to get to the end. I honestly didn’t care what happened to the characters.

There was much time spent on how life was in a convent at this time and truthfully I learned a lot from it – I would never survive in a convent. Some of the information that I learned helped me to better understand some other novels I had read that would occasionally reference something about a convent. It is obvious that the author put a lot of time into carefully researching the time period and the subject matter. I think there was a foundation for a story there and that was well written; if some more plot was incorporated this might have been a halfway decent book, but it was severely lacking in that department.

I hate to be so negative in this review – I have heard so many great things about her other two books, In the Company of the Courtesan and The Birth of Venus, both of which are on my bookshelf. This one just didn’t do it for me.


The only reason that I finished this book was because it was an audiobook – so that must say something for the narration. The author was soft spoken which really fit the feel of being in a convent. I also liked having someone else pronounce the names of the characters because after looking at how they are spelled out I never would have pronounced them right.

If you would like to preview the story before reading it, why not try out this excerpt of the book?  Or, you can take the audio for a spin with this sample below:

You can view or listen to several podcasts at Sarah Dunant’s website for more information about the book, characters and setting of the novel.

You can also watch the book trailer below:

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

Buy the Book:  Amazon | Barnes & Noble | RJ Julia

Also by Sarah Dunant

the birth of venus
The Birth of Venus

in the company of the courtesan
In the Company of the Courtesan

blood and beauty
Blood & Beauty

in the name of the family
In the Name of the Family

Find Sarah Dunant: Website | Facebook

Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court


  1. This is a great, honest review. You did not like the book and you expressed yourself very well, without sounding offensive at all.

    I read The Birth of Venus and thoroughly enjoyed it, although it has a few slow parts. But I guess that sometimes, an author can do too much research, which makes them forget about the plot. I think you'd enjoy The Birth of Venus more. I know several people who liked Dunant's first book, but didn't enjoy In the Company of the Courtesan.

    I think I'll stay away from Sacred Hearts for a while.

  2. Irena - thank you for the kind words. I do think that this was a case for way to much research and losing track of the importance of plot (although she did stay true to her story all the way thru). I hope to get to read The Birth of Venus soon.

  3. I've found that I run hot and cold with Dunant's writings. Like Irena stated: I liked The Birth of Venus, but I had to give up on In the Company of the Courtesan (and I really, really tried to like it). Sometimes the fit just isn't right, I suppose. :-)

  4. Oregon Kimm - I definatley think I will try the Birth of Venus first. Thanks for the heads up.

  5. Great review and very honest. I don't really like books that have too much narrative or history, especially at the beginning of the book. I prefer to get right to the story with a little history sprinkled through, as needed.

    One thing I've found - not all books are meant to be audio books. There are some very popular books that I listened to in audio and couldn't understand why people like them so much. My mind would wander as I listened.

  6. Yvonne - I have to agree - not all books should be audios. The audio itself for this one was halfway decent - but the story was not right for me.

  7. It is a shame when a book doesn't turn out to be something we enjoy. I always hate to quit and have finished all but a very few, hoping to the end that they will get better. I like details of life and organizations, so would enjoy that aspect of the book. That said, I want characters I can care about and a good story to go along with those details.
    You can't like every book and not all will be highly rated. Your review is honest and not petty or mean. It is fair and written in a way that an author can get good feedback from it without being offended.

  8. Librarypat - I am the same way - I hate to stop reading a book - I think there are only maybe two that I haven't finished. Thanks for the feedback about my review!

  9. AWW, so sorry you didn't enjoy this one! There seems to be a great division on this particular book.. some have loved it and some have not.. I did enjoy it, as I enjoyed the education on a completely new subject for me. It was also my first Dunant, so I wonder if that means that I won't enjoy her others, since opinions seem to differ so much? Time will tell. Thanks for the honest opinions!

  10. Marie - I did learn a lot from this book but it just was very hard for me to get through. It does appear to be a book that people either really loved or didn't at all. I am looking forward to reading The Birth of Venus tho.

  11. I tried reading this book and found it very slow. Your review -- thank you for being honest! -- convinced me to move on rather than try again. Too many tempting books to keep attempting the meh ones!


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