After ten years as a barrister, Helen Bryan left law to write full time. In 2003, she received the Award of Merit from the Colonial Dames of America for her biography Martha Washington: First Lady of Liberty. Her first work of historical fiction, War Brides, was a bestseller on Amazon. She is also the author of the law handbook Planning Applications and Appeals. Raised in Tennessee and Virginia, she currently resides in London with her family.
The Sisterhoodby Helen Bryan
Reeling from a broken engagement, adopted nineteen-year-old Menina Walker flees to Spain to bury her misery by writing her overdue college thesisand soon finds herself on an unexpected journey into the past. The subject of her study is Tristan Mendoza, an obscure sixteenth-century artist whose signature includes a tiny swallowthe same swallow depicted… See more details below
Reeling from a broken engagement, adopted nineteen-year-old Menina Walker flees to Spain to bury her misery by writing her overdue college thesisand soon finds herself on an unexpected journey into the past. The subject of her study is Tristan Mendoza, an obscure sixteenth-century artist whose signature includes a tiny swallowthe same swallow depicted on a medal that is Menina’s only link to her birth family.
Hoping her research will reveal the swallow’s significance and clue her in to her origins, Menina discovers the ancient chronicle of a Spanish convent, containing the stories of five orphaned girls hidden from the Spanish Inquisition before they escaped to the New World. Learning about the girls’ adventures, the nuns who sheltered them, and Mendoza, Menina wonders if accident or destiny led her to Spainand the discovery of a lifetime.
From bestselling author Helen Bryan comes The Sisterhood, an epic adventure filled with history, passion, and intrigue.
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This book is one of those thoroughly unexpected treats that should not be ignored! It was suggested, and provided to me, by the publicist who thought it might be a book that I would enjoy. I have to admit to being skeptical. How could someone that I don't know at all possibly know what I might like or not? What a shock! She nailed me and my interests perfectly, and I am so happy that she did! This is a book that deserves a lot more attention that it has, perhaps, received. The author, Helen Bryan, is a barrister, and she is the author of another best selling book, "The War Brides". Perhaps it is her background in the law that facilitates her ability to blend time and space flawlessly and logically. The prose is so well done, and the flow of the book is perfectly paced. It's engrossing! It's a book that will stay with you. Once I finally opened it I could scarcely put it down. I looked forward to getting up in the morning to read a bit more, and then more at night. Yes, it really is that good. I suppose one of the things that I really like about this book is that the story straddles two different times in history; the modern day and 16th century Spain during the throes of the Inquisition. Sometimes when authors write books like this, that span different time periods, there seems to be a slight catch or hitch as the book flows from from time period to time period. There is none of that little hesitance in this book, however. The chapters, and time periods, flow seamlessly from one to another and back again, and it all makes perfect sense as you read it too. The story begins with the modern day and South American orphan girl who is adopted from a South American Convent. The only memories of her birth family are a curious medal and an ancient chronical (written in both Latin and vernacular Spanish). These artifacts are given to the American Southern Baptist adoptive parent with the understanding that, upon her sixteenth birthday, the girl, Menina, would be presented with these mementos of her beginnings in life. From the present you are sped to Spain in the 16th century. To a convent and to the lives of five orphans who were secreted to the sanctuary of a convent where all women and orphans were accepted regardless of past sins or religious upbringing. The names of these hapless orphan girls are Esperanza, who is 16 years old and whose parents are Muslims. Luz, a dwarf, who is also an heiress, but is not able to speak. Marisol, 14, incorrectly believed to be the misbegotten daughter of a Courtesan and the mad royal prince. Pia, a child of Scandinavian descent whose hair glows like the moon and whose beauty is difficult to ignore, but her mother is a courtesan. Last there is Sanchia, the daughter of Jews who barely escapes the burning that claimed the lives of her parents. Eventually, as the Inquisition spreads, these children are sent on a journey to the new world in South America. They are sent away in order to protect them because the Inquisitor's are expected at the convent gates at any time, and the sisters do not want their various histories to be discovered lest the be taken by the Inquisitor's and tortured. They are sent with both the chronicle and the medal in the hopes that they will found a new convent dedicated to the healing arts and acceptance of all women no matter their religious beliefs or color. It is also hoped that they may find men to marry and will be able to carry on the mission of the convent. Swallows, which are so plentiful in Spain, are the symbol that is used to mark both the old convent and the new; they also mark the cover of the chronicle and the medal. The journey takes so many unexpected turns. No one at the main convent knows what became of the orphans nor do the orphans know what happened when the Inquisition came knocking. Back in the present time, after braking off her engagement to a local political maven's son, Menina , decides to travels to Spain; both to heal her broken heart as well as to do research for a thesis on the artist Tristan Mendoza. Menina now suspects that her ex-finacee wanted to marry her only for the Hispanic voters that she might bring to the political relationship. She wants to escape also from the forced, premarital rape that left her bereft of her future and split her exceedingly 'safe' life apart at the seams. After an unexpected, severe, storm leaves Menina stranded in a mountainous village just after her arrival in Spain, does her life begin to find renewed meaning, albeit not willingly at first. Due to the storm's effects the phones in the village are not functioning and preclude her trying to contact her parents or the tour director who she was supposed to meet up with in Madrid. The local police officer at first thinks that Menina is a prostitute that has come to the town to join in a yearly celebration. Menina is taken to the mountainous convent where she will find safety and a place to stay until needed repairs are made to the telephone system and allow Menina to leave the village. At this point the story, along with Menina, blossom with kismet, and the telling of the tale is beautifully done! The separation between past and present becomes a thin veil as Menina uncovers some long lost paintings by the artist, Tristan Mendoza, who she is studying and whose only known works were thought to be found in the Prado Museum in Madrid. This is how these two diverse stories begin, but the telling is what is entrancing and is what will hold your attention from the first page to the last. I was sorry to have this book end, and I don't too often feel that way no matter how good a book may be. Some of the publication that was sent to me with the book was particularly interesting and contained some comments by the author about her work. One of the questions concerned what lasting impression she hoped that the book would leave readers with. Part of her reply included ".. the book is set in two periods of tension, hostility and mistrust between Jews, Christians and Muslims, four hundred years apart but with many parallels..." This is a really relevant comment, but you will simply have to read this gem of a book for yourself to understand what the parallels are! Read this book! I cannot help but think that you will not regret it. The book should have wide appeal for historical history fans as well as for readers of wonderfully written general fiction.
I really enjoyed this book. It is an epic tale spanning 500 years, from the Spanish Inquisition to present day times. The story follows Menina Walker, a child who was rescued off the coast of South America. She was sent to a Catholic convent and was later adopted by an American couple. When she left the convent, her adoptive parents were given a medallion as well as the convent's most prized possession, the Chronicle, which was to be given to Menina on her 16th birthday. Menina led an ordinary life up until she left America to travel to Spain to work on her college art thesis. A number of coincidences led her to the gates of the convent where it all started. What I enjoyed about the book: I enjoyed the writing style. It flowed smoothly and was easy to read. The history of the Spanish Inquisition was fascinating, but horrifying in places. The history of the early convents, and the life of the nuns and the hardships they had to endure, gives the reader an insight into the conditions and circumstances surrounding the convents and their patrons – a real eye opener. The tale of the Spanish nun who escaped with the children and traveled to South America - it was certainly not an easy undertaking in those days, but their harrowing trip and the subsequent establishment of the convent was great to read. What I had a problem with: There were one or two coincidences which seemed too far-fetched to make the whole tale totally believable. I could not get my head around the fact that the convent gave the chronicle to Menina’s non-Catholic adoptive parents for safekeeping. I would have thought that such an important document would be locked away in a vault somewhere. The Catholic Church – there is no way that they would have sat back and allowed the Chronicle to be published. It is as simple as that. The church and their lawyers would have had her tied up in court for decades – and yet, not a whimper from the Vatican? Would I recommend this book? Most definitely Yes. I thoroughly enjoyed the historical part of the story and how it all came together at the end. The book is by no means a religious book, it is a historical story about the lives of the nuns and the women they protected from either the vicious and cruel men in their lives, the vicious and cruel Church, or the vicious and cruel Crown ..........being a woman in the 16th century was certainly no picnic. A truly good read that makes you think ............ which is a good outcome.
This is not the sort of book I normally read but I'd enjoyed Bryan's book, WAR BRIDES, and decided to give this a try. Despite time shifts and multiple narrators, I was pulled in. I liked it enough that I purchased another copy for a friend.