I loved Sarah Dunant's "In the Company of the Courtesan" and I love this one, too. From high-class prostitutes to nuns - quite an about-face for this author, who can create a world that absorbs and entrances. I found the story worked because she neither idolized the sisters, nor evinced hatred for the Catholic Church. The book was balanced - there are good nuns and bad nuns, those who are spiritual and those who are more earthly, but no one is a particular villain or a saint.
I was especially moved by the story of the young woman who is put into the convent against her will because of a love affair of which her parents did not approve. Her torment is palpable, and so understandable. A small "cell" - a haven to a committed nun; a prison to a reluctant young woman. It was interesting to contemplate how a belief or an attitude transforms what a person encounters in life.
I found the characters well-drawn and believable. The ending is a bit "high romance" for my style (unlike the delightfully unsentimental - for the most part - courtesan), but the plot is gripping, and I felt as if the world I entered was valid and real, and that I learned from it.