Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sacred Hearts by Sarah Dunant

I can't say that I expected to love Sacred Hearts. And I don't. I'm not sure I could ever love a book set in a 16th century Italian convent, but I certainly wasn't expecting to find the setting or a few nuns so interesting.

It's no page-turner--I doubt anyone will want to read it in one sitting---but it is the story of a determined, love-struck young woman from Milan whose noble family compels her to take novice vows in a convent in Ferrara. It's also the story of the convent's dispensary mistress, who has been in the convent since her father, a renowned physician, died 16 years earlier.

Prior to reading this book, I'd had no idea that so many nobles' daughters were pushed into convents because dowries were too extravagant for even the rich to afford. Nor had I ever considered all the politicking that would go on inside a convent, almost more vicious than any modern campaign for office because they had to live, day in and day out, with each other.

I read one blogger's review (I forget whose) in which she insisted that nothing happened. It was a funny review--I liked it. I was only a few pages in at the time and wondered if I was going to be quitting the book in the next hundred pages. But I must disagree that nothing happened. Subtle things happened, and a few not so subtle things. If the setting had been anywhere else but a convent, the book wouldn't have been interesting in the slightest.

I haven't read Dunant's other books, so I can't express an opinion about how Sacred Hearts stacks up. Though it's not a book that I'm going to run around pushing into people's hands, it's not one I'd discourage them from reading, either.

Thanks to Random House for sending me an ARC!


bermudaonion said...

Sounds interesting - I bet my mom would love this one.

Jen (Devourer of Books) said...

I read that review too (and, like you, I have no idea whose it was), and I was sort of surprised because, having read it over the summer, I remembered quite a lot happening just, as you said, subtle things.

Liviania said...

Nuns? I love nuns! *writes title down*

Literate Housewife said...

I have an ARC of this book and I guess I need to pick it up. I think I will find it interesting as a woman and as a Catholic. Thanks for posting about it!

Zibilee said...

I read this one about six months ago and thought it was really interesting and engrossing, while also being very placid and quiet. I have read other books by this author, but this was the best out of the ones I have gotten to. I am glad you ultimately enjoyed it. I love stories about convent life, so this book was right up my alley. Great review, I liked your thoughts on this one!