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Sacred Hearts [Hardcover]

Sarah Dunant
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
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Book Description

June 25 2009
1570 in the Italian city of Ferrara, and the convent of Santa Caterina is filled with noble women who are married to Christ because many cannot find husbands outside. Enter sixteen-year-old Serafina, ripped by her family from an illicit love affair, howling with rage and hormones and determined to escape. While on the other side of the great walls, counter-reformation forces in the Church are pushing for change, inside, Serafina's spirit and defiance ignite a fire that threatens to engulf the whole convent.

SACRED HEARTS is a novel about power, creativity and passion - both of the body and of the soul. Hidden history brought alive by a wonderful storyteller, renowned for her Italian Renaissance novels.

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“A cast of complex characters breathe new life into the classic star-crossed lovers trope while affording readers a look at a facet of Renaissance life beyond the far more common viscounts and courtesans. Dunant’s an accomplished storyteller, and this is a rich and rewarding novel.”–Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Dunant's brilliant imagination is at its powerful best as she re-creates the routines, the crotchets and tiny details of convent life in 1570. The reader can hear the rustle of nuns' habits and the murmur of their prayers….[a] captivating novel…packed with complex relationships, passion, sorrow and religious devotion….this novel unequivocally does what fiction is supposed to do and rarely does: It takes us to a place we could never personally experience. Dunant creates such a living and tangible environment, built on meticulous yet unobtrusive research, that she shares with us the joys and sorrows, the frustration and anger, the rebellion, submission and sometimes even the presence of God.”—Washington Post

“A great read that throws a light in a hidden corner of history, with a bonus: Although written for a secular crowd, it never discounts the possibility of miracles.”—Cleveland Plain Dealer

“Engrossing…. Dunant brings the period vividly to life, portraying in detail the complex, claustrophobic world of the convent.” —Boston Globe

“Original, engrossing, meticulously researched, this is a fascinating tale….This novel has everything: period detail, political intrigue, love, mystery, social strife, and epic cattiness.” —Elle

From the Hardcover edition. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Sarah Dunant is a cultural commentator, award-winning thriller writer and author of a trilogy of novels set in renaissance Italy exploring women's lives through art, sex and religion.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A glimpse into a cloistered world May 10 2010
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.
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2.0 out of 5 stars a far cry from Dunant's past works. Dec 15 2010
By Asher TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I have yet to finish this book, although I have had it for a long while. The writing is muddy and sucks you down, but not in the good way which makes you unable to stop reading! Also, the story is just boring---I thought there would be a great deal of intrigue and opulence which characterizes Dunant's past works; but essentially, this is about a convent full of nuns who all intensely dislike each other for one reason or another. The story lost me after 100 pages or so, and still I attempted to get through it, unsuccessfully.

I will refrain from casting any aspirations on Dunant until I read her next novel---but in my estimation, this is a book to skip.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Awesome! Aug. 27 2012
By Louise Jolly TOP 50 REVIEWER
Story Description:

Random House|June 10, 2011|Hardcover|ISBN: 978-1-4000-6382-6

The year is 1570, and in the convent of Santa Caterina, in the Italian city of Ferrara, noblewoman find space to pursue their lives under Gods' protection. But any community, however smoothly run, suffers tremors when it takes in someone by force. And the arrival of Santa Caterina's new novice sets in motion a chain of events that will shake the convent to its core.

Ripped by her family from an illicit love affair, sixteen-year-old Serafina is wilful, emotional, sharp, and defiant - young enough to have a life to look forward to and old enough to know that life is being cut short. Her first night inside the walls is spent in incandescent rage so violent that the dispensary mistress, Suora Zuana, is dispatched to the girl's cell to sedate her. Thus begins a complex relationship of trust and betrayal between the young rebel and the clever, scholarly nun, for whom the girl becomes the daughter she will never have.

As Serafina rails against her incarceration, others are drawn into the drama, the ancienAt, mysterious Suora Magdalena - with her history of visions and ecstasies - locked in her cell, the ferociously devout novice mistress Suora Umilian, who comes to see in the postulant a way to extend her influence, and watching it all, the abbess, Madonna Chiara, a woman as fluent in politics as she is in prayer. As disorder and rebellion mount, it is the abbess's job to keep the convent stable while, outside its walls, the dictates of the Counter-Reformation begin to purge the Catholic Church and impose on the nunneries a regime of terrible oppression.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed March 23 2010
I loved Sarah Dunant's books The Birth of Venus and In the Company of the Courtesan. I bought this one in hardcover with great anticipation and was very disappointed. Although the description of the book sounded quite interesting, I couldn't get into the characters and it dragged for me. I found myself skimming. The ending did pick up however it took a good 300 pages before the story got a bit more exciting. I suspect most of her fans will be disappointed with this novel also.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars Sept. 18 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Enjoyed reading this book tremendously. The story line was very captivating.
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