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Monday, September 21, 2009

Sacred Hearts by Sarah Dunant

Pages: 400

Copyright: 2009

Genre: Historical Fiction

Series: Renaissance Trilogy


Rating 4 Crowns

In the year 1570, we descend on the beautiful town of Ferrara and the convent Santa Caterina. Convent life is peaceful and strict, designed to bring discipline and ultimately happiness into the lives of the women who live there.

But what if you never wanted to go to a convent? In this time, there are really two kinds of women - those intended for marriage, and those bred for the veil. Novice Serafina is clearly one who was meant for marriage, and by a twist of fate ends up inside the walls of Santa Caterina. We follow her on her journey to make a decision: does she relent and accept convent life, or does she rebel and insist on the life she really wants?

Sacred Hearts is a touching and satisfying look at convent life in the mid-sixteenth century. We come face to face with the kind of life and choices ladies in this day and age are completely separated from. No one has to worry about either being forced into marriage or a religious life, wondering if our parents will have enough of a dowry to get an acceptable husband. I spent much of the book imagining what it would be like to be forced into one life or the other, and wondering which one I would have hated more.

I found this a heartbreaking look into the choices, or lack-there-of, for women in this time period. It's so hard to even imagine being forced into a marriage you don't want, but even worse to think you could be stuck in a convent against your will. Women had so few options, and young girls were at the mercy of the decisions their fathers made. Even when you've entered the convent, ultimately you are at the mercy of the hierarchy of the Catholic church, in a time when women were considered little more than property.

The book also does a good job of showing that sometimes, the convent really is the only option for some women - whether they have forbidden knowledge or birth defects that would prevent them from any other kind of life, the convent is the only home they will ever be able to know. Instead of being a prison for these women, it's an institution of safety and the only place they can really be themselves. And despite the isolation of the convent, you find similar problems inside as you would out, especially when what happens in the outside world can spill over.

I loved the characters, and found myself wishing I could know some of them, specifically Suora Zuana. I became wrapped up in the lives of these characters, yearning for them to be happy, whatever that may mean for each of them individually. For a short time, they became my sisters and I'm grateful for the opportunity to watch their lives unfold.

An all around great book that I would definitely recommend to anyone who likes historical fiction!

Lady in Waiting
Thanks to Crystal from I Totally Paused for this wonderful guest blogger review!


ibeeeg said...

Great review!!

I am currently awaiting the arrival of this book. I look forward to the read. Once I am done, I am going to come back here and re-read your review.

The Book Resort said...

The lack of choices really does show how far women have come.

Terrific review,Crystal! Thanks.

dorolerium said...

Thank you! I really loved reading it, and getting a look at a different kind of life during this period in history :)

Teddyree said...

Wonderful review Crystal, I have this one waiting on audio, but I'm not in the mood for historical just yet, hopefully soon :-)

Alaine - Queen of Happy Endings said...

Great review Crystal, I'm looking forward to reading this one.

Jennifer said...

Wow, I am adding this to my to buy and read list!

dorolerium said...

Thank you all for the lovely comments! I'm glad you liked the review, and I'm sure you'll love the book :)