Sacred Hearts

Sacred Hearts

A Novel

Book - 2009
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The year is 1570, and in the convent of Santa Caterina, in the Italian city of Ferrara, noblewomen find space to pursue their lives under God's protection. But any community, however smoothly run, suffers tremors when it takes in someone by force. And the arrival of Santa Caterina's new novice sets in motion a chain of events that will shake the convent to its core.
Publisher: New York : Random House, 2009.
Edition: 1st U.S. ed.
ISBN: 9781400063826
Call Number: DUNANT
Characteristics: 415 p. ; 24 cm
Subjects: Historical fiction.
Ferrara (Italy) -- Fiction.
Women -- Italy -- Social conditions -- 16th century -- Fiction.
Convents -- Italy -- Fiction.
Nuns -- Italy -- Fiction.


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Cynthia_N Mar 08, 2017

Interesting glimpse into life in a convent in the 1500s. Much more political than I had imagined but not surprising. The book has a little bit of a twist at the end!

May 07, 2015

Who would have thought that a story about a 16th-century teenager forced to enter a convent could be so engaging? I thoroughly enjoyed this book, loved the characters, the writing, and the story: thoroughly recommend it!

Chapel_Hill_KenMc Dec 20, 2014

Dunant is a marvelous historical writer, with a delightful eye for detail that relies on rigorous research. Her novels always come with a bibliography. She also seems to stick to what she knows, which is Renaissance Italy. This novel takes on convent life, and the plight of young women who were forced against their will into taking the vows.

Dec 10, 2012

An interesting and well paced story of the influence and power of the church during the Renaissance in Italy. Lots of historical detail.

Jul 28, 2012

1570 Italian convent is the setting. It is a mystery, but also about the fight against the counter-reformation.

Geegee235 Jan 08, 2012

Fascinating story. A little far-fetched but interesting insight into the lives of unwanted daughters in Italy when the only option was the convent.

Nicole21 Oct 16, 2010

This is a good book - took a long time to actually grab my interest.I am a Catholic so it all made sense to me but I am not sure that anyone else would want to read pages and pages about the religion and the rituals esp at that time..I did skip over some of it (ha)

The main character is full of gusto and you have to feel for her - the trapped songbird. The RC cloister was the option for many 2nd born girls - doweries were too high. Sister Zuana is a great lady - full of intelligence and a questioning mind. A woman far before her time - also trapped within the walls but each woman has her own story. A good book. Just be ready for the first 100 pages - UGH but worth the pain I think...

flourgirl Aug 31, 2010

The detail in this book really makes it come alive. I thought that it was not as good as either "The Birth of Venus" or "In the Company of the Courtesan" because it was slow to get going, but once the real story started it was hard to put down.

Aug 25, 2010

Sarah Dunant writes a fine historical novel - great research made interesting through her storytelling ability.

Lorna Aug 10, 2010

Sacred Hearts is set in the convent of Santa Caterina in the city of Ferrara, Italy, in 1570. The convent is a contemplative Benedictine enclosed community, but “enclosed” in a moderate sense. Santa Caterina is famous for its music and its public musical performances. But the community, like the Church of the time, is split between sisters who would prefer a stricter form of enclosure, and those who believe a moderate approach is best.

In sixteenth century Italy, an educated woman or a woman who wanted education had few options. Marriage was a political, contractual agreement. An unmarried daughter was only valuable as long as she could be used to negotiate advantageous marriage—meaning advantageous to her family, not necessarily to her. Convents were the home of those women who couldn't be married, or wouldn't be married and not all the sisters had a true vocation to the religious life. Some of them found a vocation once inside the walls; some of them made the best of it. Some of them rebelled outright.

The catalyst of the novel is one who rebelled. Serafina is forced into the novitiate when her father discovers she is in love with a music teacher. Her schemes to escape and reunite with her lover inspire Suor Zuana, who is the apothecary and Abbess Chiara to re-examine their vocations as they both become involved in Serafina's struggles.

If you loved the Brother Cadfael novels, or Sarah Dunant's other novels, The Birth of Venus and In the Company of the Courtesan, you probably will love this novel too simply for its setting, the fullness of historical detail provided and the mystery aspect as to whether Serafina will escape and live happily ever after with her lover. But Serafina's rebellion is only one theme in this novel and not the most complex one. It's the exploration of feminine leadership and the life of a feminine community that makes this novel. It is both gritty and philosophical, comedic and heartbreaking. This is my first encounter with Dunant's work, but I've already purchased The Birth of Venus and will go on to read her other novels. In Sacred Hearts, Sarah Dunant weaves romance, mystery, history, theology, politics and psychology into a fascinating story that will keep you turning the pages but also keep you turning the questions.

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