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.”
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.
Author Sarah Dunantalso has written Blood and Beauty, In The Company of the Courtesan, and The Birth of Venus. You can visit Dunant’s website or blog for additional information about the book. If you would like to preview the story before reading it, why not try out this excerpt of the book? 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:
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