Kieran Walsh's Reviews > Sacred Hearts

Sacred Hearts by Sarah Dunant
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Oct 17, 2010

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Read in October, 2010

I have to stand back and think about this one. I'm not spiritual enough to appreciate the life of monastic seclusion so had to peel back the religious references to get to the core of the story. Definitely some interesting finds. Historical fiction isn't for everybody but the fun in reading a book like this is that one is obliged (at least)to understand the context. While Sarah Dunant certainly doesn't leave the reader guessing on this score.....bottom line: Sixteenth century was pretty rough on women. No opportunity to marry without a decent dowry and certainly no opportunity to carve out a profession or even talent (if you were lucky enough to have one). Intellecutal opinion wasn't afforded so the only feasible option was for your family to pack you off to a local convent, where, for the most part, there was quite a forward thinking domocratic (mostly) world that could encourage talent, intellectual stimulation and professional ambition. Needless to say there might be a few limitations but after 10-20 years most women learnt to tow the proverbial line and have a fullfililng life. A few hiccups along the way included The Council of Trent, which, clearly was a horrific violation of the religious human right and, needless to say, women came out with the short straw. So, with this backdrop, Sacred Heart introduces us to some characters, each with a clear role in the overall macro history....The accutely political abbess, progressive minded chemist sister, conservative novice sister and recently arrived love sick 16 year old entrant.
I would have like to enjoy this more than I did. The historical themes were fascinating. The politics of the time and overall role of the Catholic church was pretty intriguing but I found the romance sticky and level of piety stomach churning (not the author's fault, mind you). For historical fiction fans this could be an A+.
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