Customer Reviews for

Sacred Hearts

Average Rating 3.5
( 64 )
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Most Helpful Favorable Review

4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

Habits off ...

Sacred Hearts is the latest novel by Sarah Dunant. Set in a convent in Renaissance Italy, Ms. Dunant paints a revealing picture of a nun's life during the latter half of the sixteenth century. In a time when young women were subject to the will of their fathers, one's o...
Sacred Hearts is the latest novel by Sarah Dunant. Set in a convent in Renaissance Italy, Ms. Dunant paints a revealing picture of a nun's life during the latter half of the sixteenth century. In a time when young women were subject to the will of their fathers, one's options were limited. Either you married who was selected for you or you joined a convent - neither choice is very appealing.
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The novel revolves around Serafina, a defiant young lady who is forced into religious servitude, and Suora Zuana, the dispensary mistress who was also an unwilling addition to convent life. From the start of Serafina's incarceration, the relationship that develops between these two women is one of trust, betrayal and survival. We watch as they navigate through religious dogma and convent politics. Ms. Dunant has brought them to life - we cannot help but feel for them through their struggles and triumphs, when their hopes are dashed, when they give up their dreams, when they accept their fate, .... I know that I am grateful that I did not live in during that time period.
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The writing kept me interested and the plot is filled with drama and intrigue. I was hooked from the beginning and wanted to know what would happen next to these two women. I highly recommend to those who have read previous works of Sarah Dunant and to those who like historical fiction.
-----
Thank you to LibraryThing and Random House for this ARE.

posted by CathyB on June 21, 2009

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Most Helpful Critical Review

2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

Interesting history in Sacred Hearts

I bought this after hearing the NPR interview. I was mostly interested in how she tied in the convent history to a plausible story. Dunant did a great job of tying her research into a story that could have happened. I was entertained while learning about where the ...
I bought this after hearing the NPR interview. I was mostly interested in how she tied in the convent history to a plausible story. Dunant did a great job of tying her research into a story that could have happened. I was entertained while learning about where the less desirable daughters went, convents, medicine and mores of the time.

posted by VALADY on September 26, 2009

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  • Posted September 6, 2009

    Dunant's best work since The Birth of Venus!

    An inspiring, powerful, & moving tale of the strength of women's compassion in a society where they are downtrodden & treated like property. Along the way there is danger, intrigue, & life-threatening situations. If you love medieval era fiction, this is for you. If you love Philippa Gregory or Jeanne Kalogridis, this is a must read.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 29, 2009

    What do you do with unnecessary women?

    What does a family do when they have more daughters than money for marriage dowries? What do they do when their daughter is born with a disfiguring defect, or has a pitted face from smallpox? What do they do when their defiant daughter decides she will choose her own lover? What does a lone daughter do when her life of silently helping her father in his business is shattered because he dies and she is not allowed to work on her own? Well in 1500's Italy, these girls find themselves in a Convent of Sisters.
    SACRED HEARTS by Sarah Dunant tells a varied and passionate story of these many women as they learn to live and survive within their forced new home. There is no way out until death comes, but that does not mean that the women do not think of many ways to work around the system. There are many characters in this book that draw our attention, but my two favorite were rebellious Sarafina with the beautiful voice who wants only to sing for her lover who appreciates her music to his very soul, and Suora Zuana who is the dispensary mistress and befriends Sarafina. Suora Zuana has been in the convent for many years and has settled into her own healing life because she has been able to practice her art with herbs and drafts which she learned from her father before his untimely death.
    This woman's story is filled with devotion, love, determination, and strong wills as the women work and dispute together trying to find their place in a world of spiritual beliefs, and imprisonment of women with no political powers. How determination and brainpower helps one woman determine her own fate is the essential power of this story. Love and the medicinal power of natural plants adds a great deal to this story and brings to mind Ellis Peters' Brother Cadfeal, but knowing that the Sister has not the roaming power of a Brother adds an extra dimension to this story.
    A different part of the world for women in 16th Century Italy makes for a fascinating story. Whether you are a believer or studier of women, you will find this book well suited to your needs and interest.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 21, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Habits off ...

    Sacred Hearts is the latest novel by Sarah Dunant. Set in a convent in Renaissance Italy, Ms. Dunant paints a revealing picture of a nun's life during the latter half of the sixteenth century. In a time when young women were subject to the will of their fathers, one's options were limited. Either you married who was selected for you or you joined a convent - neither choice is very appealing.
    -----
    The novel revolves around Serafina, a defiant young lady who is forced into religious servitude, and Suora Zuana, the dispensary mistress who was also an unwilling addition to convent life. From the start of Serafina's incarceration, the relationship that develops between these two women is one of trust, betrayal and survival. We watch as they navigate through religious dogma and convent politics. Ms. Dunant has brought them to life - we cannot help but feel for them through their struggles and triumphs, when their hopes are dashed, when they give up their dreams, when they accept their fate, .... I know that I am grateful that I did not live in during that time period.
    -----
    The writing kept me interested and the plot is filled with drama and intrigue. I was hooked from the beginning and wanted to know what would happen next to these two women. I highly recommend to those who have read previous works of Sarah Dunant and to those who like historical fiction.
    -----
    Thank you to LibraryThing and Random House for this ARE.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 17, 2010

    Intriguing Story, Takes A While To Get Into

    I've loved Sarah Dunant's other two historical fiction novels (In The Company of the Courtesan and The Birth of Venus), and looked forward to reading this book. It took a little while for me to get into - the story almost completely takes place inside the walls of a convent. But once you get into it (and past some of the cliches), it really is an enjoyable read. Definitely makes you thrilled to live in the present - not one of those books that will make you yearn for the "good old days." In fact, it's horrifying in its depiction of women in the 1500s for two reasons - 1) that women could only have a shred of independence and self-governance within the walls of a nunnery; and 2)that their "freedom" was subject to the whims of the ruling church hierarchy. All in all, a good read, just be prepared to take a few pages to warm up to the characters.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 9, 2009

    A unique book

    This book was something different than I have ever read before. I did enjoy it. It all comes together at the end.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 27, 2011

    Highly recommend

    I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. While the characters are all fiction, the setting is historically and geographically real. No strong language or erotic descriptions, so this might not appeal to anyone who likes "spicier" reading material.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 26, 2009

    Unusual Setting

    This is an enjoyable book but will probably be appreciated more by those who have some knowledge of cloistered women. For those who don't some of the actions may seem somewhat bizarre. There's nothing unique about the plot, but the period and the setting are certainly out of the ordinary. Overall, it was a very entertaining and can be readily recommended.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 26, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    My Sistahs loved the Sisters!!

    For those who loved The Birth of Venus and In The Company of a Courtesan, this is a great read -- perhaps not as dense as its predecessors, this novel nonetheless makes the period and the women who inhabit it (!!) seem alive and even pulsating. Ms. Dunant always paints an indelible picture of the lives of the women she seems to fall in love with, inextricably interlaced with details of the historical context that creates their challenges and victories.

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