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.
Sarah Dunant, is the bestselling author of The Birth of Venus and In the Company of the Courtesan, brings this intricate Renaissance world compellingly to life. Amid Sacred Hearts is a rich, engrossing, multifaceted love story, encompassing the passions of the flesh, the exultation of the spirit, and the deep enduring power of friendship.
A great piece of historical fiction that was hard to put down. It brought to life the world of an Italian convent in Ferrara, Italy in 1570. Back in that era, women could be placed in convents by ‘force’. Many of these women who ended up there were castaways from families; unwanted in general; others to curb promiscuous lifestyles; or even those with rich families who could provide a dowry with the young woman just for them to take her off their hands.
The story itself is basically about a particular young nun, Serafina, who is extremely headstrong and stubborn. She is sent to Santa Caterina totally against her will and has such a rotten attitude that she single handedly brings down the entire equilibrium of the whole convent. When she first arrived she was prone to fits of screaming and disruption that it made it difficult for the other nuns to carry out their day-to-day duties.
Zuona is a special nun in the regard that she is an apothecary having taught by her physician father. This was a very strange career to teach a girl during this particular era. Zuana likes to learn and holds dear the many herbs, roots, sinews and books she has. She likes to learn and is somewhat of a thinker, not a dreamer like a lot of the other nuns.
Serafina is an unwilling novice but when the Abby places her in the pharmacy with Zuana, Zuana is forced to confront a lot of her personal feelings, which she has repressed. These are feelings that have prevented Zuana from accepting completely her life in the convent. Zuana was sent to the convent after the death of her father.
Madonna Chiara is the abbess and CEO and reruns a tight ship so to speak. She can charm money from do-gooders, and ensures she gives the Bishop everything he wants to keep on his good side. Chiara has lived in the convent since she was a young girl herself. However, it is Serafina who provides the tension for all concerned in the convent. Serafina was sent to the convent by her father so he could end a relationship Serafina was having with a fellow musician.
Sacred Hearts is a phenomenal piece of historical fiction that will capture the hearts of all who read it.