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Sacred Hearts

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  10,597 Ratings  ·  1,284 Reviews
This publication is not for sale to libraries. 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 howling with rage and hormones and determined to escape.
Paperback, Large Print, 735 pages
Published September 16th 2009 by Not Avail (first published December 7th 2008)
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Jo Kaminska I agree with Karla. I'm really enjoying reading it. It is a book about women and freedom and so many other things but it isn't for everyone. I can't…moreI agree with Karla. I'm really enjoying reading it. It is a book about women and freedom and so many other things but it isn't for everyone. I can't imagine crowds of people (especially men) finding it a good read :-)(less)
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Jun 24, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Today a woman can be single and have a career and a joyful life. During the Victorian era many a maiden aunt was taken in as helper in the homes of better off relatives. But in the 16th century, we find that many aristocratic Italian families, only being able to afford one dowry, would force one girl into marriage and dispatch the other young women to convents.

At first I found Sarah Dunant’s "Sacred Hearts" claustrophobic (it all takes place behind convent walls) and uninviting. I so enjoyed "I
Jul 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I expected a book about sixteenth century convent life and its nuns to be boring. What I did not expect was Sacred Hearts by Sarah Dunant her third (and probably her best) novel set in the Italian Renaissance (following In the Company of a Courtesan and The Birth of Venus). I was instantly captivated by the sisters of Santa Caterina, a fictional convent comprised of a group of highly sophisticated women as embroiled in politics, scandal, and deception as their courtly counterparts. Dunant achiev ...more
Jan 04, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book has been quite a pleasant surprise. The setting of this nice historical novel is a convent in the elegant and pleasant city of Ferrara, during the Italian Renaissance not long after the Council of Trent.

Ferrara is unfairly neglected as a tourist destination in many tourist routes, which is quite baffling as the city is very charming, a real place that has proudly retained a genuine sense of its medieval and renaissance past. I visited the city in my latest trip to Europe, and it was a
Aug 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cannonball-read
Any reader of my reviews knows that I’m a sucker for historical fiction. If it sucks, I will finish it anyway, bitching all the way. If it’s good, I thank the fiction gods above. Sometimes it’s hard to find that good novel that makes an honest attempt at historical facts and attitudes while also maintaining an engaging writing style. Sarah Dunant’s Sacred Hearts has it nailed.

I’ve read several of Dunant’s novels before, all set in Renaissance Italy. She has a fascination with women, art, and the
Kate Quinn
Jan 11, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Novels about nuns are difficult to get right. Many are too evangelical; others simply seize the trappings of veils and prayers as a dramatic setting for a forbidden love story. Sarah Dunant's "Sacred Hearts" gets it right: a passionate but balanced story of a nunnery in Renaissance Italy poised on the brink of change. The convent is presented as an insular but surprisingly sophisticated little sphere, worldly enough to accept an Abbess with political connections and sisters who took their vows m ...more
Jan 26, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A closed society of its own--a 16th century Italian convent of Benedictines set in the tumultuous times of Counter Reformation. Women didn't have much option in those days--marriage to someone of the father's choosing, as a "maiden aunt" in the bosom of the extended family or life immured in a convent. We meet Serafina, a novice who entered unwillingly; she said the vows of novitiate with her mouth, "not her heart." We see the infirmarian, Zuana, who takes the young girl under her wing as the da ...more
"We ve come a long way, baby. It may be clich�d, but Sacred Hearts shows the reader the strides women have made in the world. I remain utterly horrified at the fact that so many women were forced into the convents. When your options are to marry the man your father tells you to marry, submit to his whims and caprices, abuse and philandering, I imagine the convent was the best choice for some. Still, that doesn t make it fundamentally right. Everyone deserves the chance to choose their life.[retu ...more
Doug Bradshaw
Aug 23, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rather than re-tell the story, here are my observations about this excellent but hard book:

1. From the very first page, a very bleak and lugubrious picture of the life of a Nun in the convents of 1500's Italy is painted. The picture is probably accurate, but it is a torturous read, like reading about the world of slavery in early America.

2. Sarah's writing is excellent and a joy to read. The lives of the four main characters are perfectly drawn and the interplay between them is a great work of
May 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Sacred Hearts" is Sarah Dunant's best novel yet, and one of the very best I've read in a long time. Through her exquisite writing Dunant brings to life, vividly and intimately, the realities of convent life in 16th-century Italy. The struggle between piety and politics, spirituality and sensuality, as well as faith and science is powerfully depicted in this engaging story. We come to know well the women whose everyday lives we are made privy to and see, and feel, the turmoil beneath the apparen ...more
Laura C.
Dec 30, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
We women, you know, are pretty strong. This novel shows us again, the truth of our lives by telling us a story. A story of making the best of it, of finding grace, even within unchosen boundaries. Did you know that half of all noble women in 16th century Italy were forced into nunneries because their families could afford only one lavish dowery? In her author's notes, Sarah Dunant quotes one such woman, a nun form Santi Naborre e Felice convent in Bolgna , written to the pope: "Many of us are sh ...more
Jul 04, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the third of the Italian Renaissance novels (there's no connection between them) and having read and enjoyed the other two I pounced upon this when I found it in a charity shop.

16 year old Serefina has been forced by her father to enter the convent of Santa Caterina. She rages against her confinement, and at first refuses to use her remarkable singing voice. As time goes on however Serefina becomes a pawn in the bitter power play of convent politics. Zuana the sister in charge of the in
Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all)
I'll admit I was spoiled for this novel by having read and re-read In This House of Brede for the past, oh 40 years it must be now. If you want an in-depth look at a Benedictine monastery, warts and all, you can't do better than Godden's masterpiece. It too is set at a time of change and upheaval--the Vatican II conferences of the 1960s; and I can't get away from the thought that Dunant, also British, was in a way trying to emulate this earlier work in her novel.

However, Sacred Hearts is set in
Gina *loves sunshine*
Birth of Venus is the only other book I have read by this author, and it's hard for me to not make the comparison! I loved birth of Venus, was totally captured by the story and the characters. But this one fell flat for me. I was drawn to the main character and the banter of the nuns -it was very call the midwife! But the overall story just did not have the mystery and the pull that I enjoy.
Sep 20, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sacred Hearts is a story set in the late 1500's in an Italian convent. A few historical notes are necessary in order to fully understand the story. First, at this time in order for a noblewoman to be married as befit someone of her class, a large dowry was necessary--so large that many families couldn't afford to marry off more than one daughter. Since women needed to be taken care of, the solution was to put them in convents. According to the author, as many as 50% of the noblewomen of that tim ...more
A chamada Idade Moderna sempre foi a minha preferida. A minha paixão avassaladora pelo Renascimento, principalmente o italiano, encontrou o seu meio de inspiração em Sarah Dunant há já algum tempo. O Nascimento de Vénus é um dos meus livros preferidos de sempre (já a ser transposto para filme) e Na Companhia da Cortesã é um dos livros mais encantadoramente estranhos que já li.
Portanto foi com altas expectativas que li Corações Sagrados e que me deixei de novo envolver pela bela e intensamente ma
J.S. Dunn
For some reason, not as engrossing as some of her other titles in Renaissance Italy. The religiosity seems overthetop and not entirely sincere.

Part of the middling rating also comes from gross lapses in research. First , there is a reference to the abbess having a mahogany armchair. That is very premature for use of mahogany in furniture, and in a small Italian city. Also convent furnishings would not lend themselves to use of mahogany....The error would have repeated itself in a page or two but
Jul 15, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very good. Set in an Italian convent in the late 16th century it tells a fictional story of one of the many (primarily middle-class) women who were packed off to convents when dowrys couldn't be raised or some other fault made them less tempting brides. Convents are, like any other enclosed setting, particularly rich settings for novels and Sarah Dunant does a particularly good job of illuminating the power plays and tensions of life in a confined environment. One of the things that particularly ...more
Aug 01, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I won this book in the give-away--my first. I had high hopes. I've tried picking it up again and again and have read several books in between each time I picked it up. So far, I've made it to page 95. It's very slow and tedious, if you're looking for a page-turner, you won't find it here. Since I am not a Roman Catholic, I had also hoped to gain some insights, maybe they're in there somewhere but so far, this book is just plain boring.
Jul 22, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: club-blogring
Segundo livro desta autora q mais uma vez me apresenta uma história bem escrita e desenvolvida, desta vez passada num convento, centrada numa noviça à força que vem desestabilizar o equilíbrio precário lá existente
Jul 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Honestly, in the back of my mind as I was enjoying the words of this book that I was reading, I had the seed of doubt already planted that I would be able to have the fortitude to write a review that could do this novel justice. Given the truth that on the outside, the setting may seem a bit bland to some - a nunnery back in the old days- 'how exciting can that be?'- I was intrigued, enthralled, engrossed with everything that went on within those convent walls.

And there is not a wide cast of ch
Brilliant book! I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, set in 1570 Renaissance Italy. A young girl is sent to live in the convent of Santa Caterina as her family can only afford one dowry and her sister is to be married. Fascinating on several levels, convent life in 1570; medicine in the 16th century ( a touch of Cadfael here) and a story about strong and powerful women coping in a man's world.
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
I loved the idea of this book. It’s set in a 16th century Italian convent--while convents often appear on the periphery in historical fiction, I was eager to get a more in-depth look inside one. And the book revolves around two potentially great characters: Serafina, a rebellious teenage novice, is the focal point of the story, while most of the book is told from the point-of-view of Zuana, a reluctant nun who nevertheless has found much to appreciate in convent life. Zuana in particular ought t ...more
Oct 20, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: religion
What a pleasure this book was to read! A guilty pleasure perhaps. I'm not sure quite why "guilty," but that's probably all that's keeping me from giving it 5 stars--a vague sense that I probably shouldn't have liked this as much as I did. It's set in a convent in 16th-century Italy, with a cast of strong-minded women doing what they would not be able to do outside the convent walls--composing music & leading a choir, practicing medicine, administering a complex institution. And yet the autho ...more
Mar 04, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
Every time I listened to this book, I felt transported to the halls of a sixteenth century convent. So many novels use convents as backdrops for either forbidden love affairs or terrible cruelty stories, but Dunant draws a much more balanced picture. She does not shy away from the fact of Renaissance life that many younger sisters in noble families as well as any women who were lame, deformed by disease, or simply not pretty enough for marriage were forced against their will into convents. But D ...more
Kathryn Bashaar
Jul 11, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was right up my alley. Not Christian fiction, which I usually find saccharine and simplistic, but literary fiction about serious Christian women. The story takes place in the fictional Benedictine abbey of Santa Caterina in Italy in the late 16th century. A new young novice arrives, clearly against her will, and her passion has an impact on the abbess, the novice mistress and especially on the dispensary sister Suora Zuana.
The novel is beautifully written and sets the reader vividly i
Kieran Walsh
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 ...more
Dec 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An era convulsed by religious reformation and a convent on the threshold of irrevocable change are the basis for Sarah Dunant's eloquent, compelling third novel in her Renaissance trilogy, SACRED HEARTS.

When young and willful Serafina is immured against her wishes in the Convent of Santa Caterina, in the Italian city of Ferrara, she is merely following in the terrible footsteps of countless unwanted or tarnished girls before her. It is estimated that by the late 16th century, dowries had grown
Janice  Durante
Aug 19, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm an unapologetic fan of Sarah Dunant's, and her latest novel, set in 1570 in Ferrara, Italy, is another stunner. As she did in The Birth of Venus and In the Company of the Courtesan , Dunant immerses the reader in the Renaissance and shines a light on the constricted lives of women in that era. Sacred Hearts introduces us to sixteen-year-old Serafina, who, like many others of her milieu, has been forced to enter the convent against her will because her noble family cannot afford her dowr ...more
Nov 15, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a great book, combining history, religion, moral dilemnas, music, medicine--lots of research here! This is the first of Dunant's books I've read. It was a "thick" read, with lots of details of the daily life of a convent in 1540, describing clothes, food, music, everything. I really appreciated the daily order of offices, not being Catholic myself I had no idea nuns woke up at 2 AM everyday (or used to). (copied review) In 16th-century Italy, convents aren't merely for housing religious ord ...more
Aug 24, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This richly layered historical narrative provided a fascinating glimpse into an often-overlooked facet of Renaissance life. Serafina is willful, passionate and adamantly unwilling to accept her fate and a life in the convent. While she plots her escape and creates a web of deception that only her advisor Zuana can penetrate, the rest of the convent struggles to reconcile her presence and her rebellion with the potential for glory that her renowned singing voice might bring them. At the same time ...more
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“She is only a young woman who did not want to become a nun. The world is full of them.” 4 likes
“God always seeth man from heaven and the angels report to Him every hour.” 1 likes
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