Book Review: Sacred Hearts by Sarah Dunant

sacredheartsTitle: Sacred Hearts
Author: Sarah Dunant
Genre: Historical fiction
Publisher: Random House
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Source: ARC from Shelf Awareness
First line: Before the screaming starts, the night silence of the convent is already alive with its own particular sounds.

As those of you who read my blog regularly know, it took me forever to finish Sacred Hearts. I requested the ARC because this is normally the kind of book I would absolutely love, but this book took forever to draw me in. In spite of that, though, it is beautifully written, and I ended up enjoying the second half.

Suora Zuana is the dispensary sister at the convent Santa Caterina in Ferrara, Italy. She has lived in the convent for seventeen years, gradually coming to accept her fate. When her father, a famous apothecary died, there was nothing else for her to do but enter the convent. In some ways, she is allowed more freedom than she would have on the outside as a wife. She is given the time and materials to perfect her remedies and cures, and an herbal garden to grow the ingredients.

Her quiet life is changed irrevocably, however, when a young novice enters the convent. Serafina has been entered into the convent against her wishes. The abbess, Madonna Chiara, is determined to assuage her grief and anger so that the young woman can use her beautiful singing voice to bring honor to the convent. Serafina has a stronger will than anyone knows, and begins plotting her escape. She is assigned to Suora Zuana to work in the dispensary, and the young novice’s spirit strikes a chord in Zuana, leading her to question the policy of unquestioning obedience to the abbess.

Ms. Dunant must have done a ton of research, because she intricately describes life inside the walls of a convent. The daily life, the devotion, the religious hysteria, and the grief for passion and motherhood denied are graphically depicted.

Sarah Dunant writes beautifully, and I am looking forward to reading more of her work. In spite of the gorgeous wordcraft, the pace of Sacred Hearts was too sedate, much as life in a convent would be, I suppose. I was tempted to give up on it several times, but my friend Michelle had read it and enjoyed it, so I kept plugging away. I’m glad I did, because I liked the second half, and especially the ending.

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15 Responses to Book Review: Sacred Hearts by Sarah Dunant

  1. Sandy
    Twitter: youvegottaread

    Woo hoo! You finished it! When I get into a book like that, even if it is interesting, I get really antsy. I like my reads to go quickly and smoothly, which isn’t always a good thing. I am too hyper sometimes to slow down and appreciate books like this.
    .-= Sandy´s last blog ..Wordless Wednesday – Gdansk #7 =-.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Sandy – yes, it was difficult. I don’t think it helped that I’m in a very hectic busy place right now, what with getting kids’ projects ready for fair and getting ready to start our homeschooling year.

  2. Kathy says:

    People seem to think this one is fantastic or just okay. At least you could appreciate the talent involved in writing it.
    .-= Kathy´s last blog ..Wondrous Words Wednesday =-.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Kathy – It was definitely well-written – I’m curious to try another one of her books.

  3. My review is posted tomorrow in which I say that it took me a while to get into it but I loved the second part!!! (great minds think alike!)
    .-= rhapsodyinbooks´s last blog ..Review of “Here I Stand,” by Paul Robeson =-.

  4. Andreea says:

    I’m sorry that you were disappointed with the first half of the book, but I am glad that you enjoyed the rest of it. It does sound like an interesting book to me. Thanks for the review!

  5. Laura @ ImBookingIt
    Twitter: bookingit

    I have this one on my shelf, and I just keep looking at it… I will get to reading it soon. I’ll keep in mind that even if the first half is slow, the second half picks up steam.

    It really does sound good!
    .-= Laura @ ImBookingIt´s last blog ..Review and Giveaway: The Gift of an Ordinary Day by Katrina Kenison =-.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Laura – it definitely helped having my friend tell me that it got better further along.

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  8. S. Krishna
    Twitter: skrishna

    The fact the book was sedate and claustrophobic actually worked for me – I’m sorry it didn’t work for you! I do love her writing.
    .-= S. Krishna´s last blog ..Sunday Salon =-.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Swapna – I love her writing, too – and I’ll definitely give another book or hers a try. I think part of the reason I couldn’t handle the sedate pace was the fact that it was the last part of our summer vacation before we start homeschooling again, and I wanted to suck up as many books as I could during that time.

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