Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Book Review: Sacred Hearts

Title Sacred Hearts: A Novel
Author Sarah Dunant
Rating ****
Tags nuns, convents, ferrara, italy, sixteenth century, medicine 

This is one of the most unique books I've ever read. Have never read anything like this and don't expect I ever will again. It is set in the convent of Santa Caterina in Ferrara, Italy in the year 1570.

The main character is Suara Zuana, the nun in charge of the dispensary and the infirmary. She became a nun after her father died, the father who had taught her medicine. There was no place else for her to go, and she entered with some rebelliousness in her heart. In the seventeen years since, she has become resigned and even grateful. Yet when a novice enters who is hysterical with her grief at being parted from her love, and rebellious, she is sympathetic. What follows upends the convent.

The author in a note reveals that at the time, in Italy, dowries had gotten so high that noble families married as few of their daughters as possible. The rest were forced into nunneries.

Dunant shows us this world, where there are almost no contact with men, where some women immersed themselves in the piety, that included services throughout the day so there was always a shortage of sleep, and others found some way to reconcile them with the life they were forced into. The special few become mystics.

It is an odd book in that we are so used books and visual media where non-stop action has become the default. It makes it hard to adjust to the pacing of this book. However, once one adjusts to it, one is immersed in a world long past and far removed from today's life. It won't be to all tastes, but it is a powerful book that I am happy to have read.

Publication Random House (2009), Hardcover, 432 pages
Publication date 2009
ISBN 1400063825 / 9781400063826

Posted via web from reannon's posterous

No comments: