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Extended Audio Sample Sacred Hearts: A Novel Audiobook, by Sarah Dunant Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (5,609 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Sarah Dunant Narrator: Rosalyn Landor Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: July 2009 ISBN: 9780739325094
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The year is 1570, and in the convent of Santa Caterina, in the Italian city of Ferrara, noblewomen find space to pursue their lives under God’s 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 willful, emotional, sharp, and defiant—young enough to have a life to look forward to and old enough to know when that life is being cut short. Her first night inside the walls is spent in an 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 ancient, mysterious Suora Magdalena—with her history of visions and ecstasies—locked in her cell; the ferociously devout novice mistress Suora Umiliana, 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, 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.

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Quotes & Awards

  • A cast of complex characters breathe new life into the classic star-crossed lovers trope while affording readers a look at a facet of Renaissance life beyond the far more common viscounts and courtesans. Dunant’s an accomplished storyteller, and this is a rich and rewarding novel. Publishers Weekly, starred review
  • Dunant's brilliant imagination is at its powerful best as she re-creates the routines, the crotchets and tiny details of convent life in 1570. The reader can hear the rustle of nuns' habits and the murmur of their prayers….[a] captivating novel…packed with complex relationships, passion, sorrow and religious devotion….this novel unequivocally does what fiction is supposed to do and rarely does: It takes us to a place we could never personally experience. Dunant creates such a living and tangible environment, built on meticulous yet unobtrusive research, that she shares with us the joys and sorrows, the frustration and anger, the rebellion, submission and sometimes even the presence of God. Washington Post
  • A great read that throws a light in a hidden corner of history, with a bonus: Although written for a secular crowd, it never discounts the possibility of miracles. Cleveland Plain Dealer
  • Engrossing…. Dunant brings the period vividly to life, portraying in detail the complex, claustrophobic world of the convent. Boston Globe
  • Original, engrossing, meticulously researched, this is a fascinating tale….This novel has everything: period detail, political intrigue, love, mystery, social strife, and epic cattiness. Elle

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Diana | 2/5/2014

    " Very good writer brings alive the eerie mood a Benedictine convent 1n 1500s Italy. Makes you think about the lives of real women who ended up in convents from the very limited choices of their times. Plot has some thrilling elements and fascinating historical elements. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Cathy | 2/2/2014

    " The first half of the book moved rather slowly, but enjoyed the development of the setting and characters. I was interested in the historical aspects of convent life, but also really liked the descriptions of what medical cures and treatments were available in those days. Happy with the ending, though I doubt if there was an epilogue, that the young woman would have reported a happy life. I am now reading Hangman's Daughter which has interesting similarities (due to medical information) and about same time period. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Bonnie | 1/22/2014

    " I did not think I would like this book group read for October but was pleasantly surprised. My first thought was what on earth could be interesting inside a 1500's closed monastary? The story did keep me interested and I was able to finish this read and think that I actually did not mind reading it. Did I like the book? A little bit...not as bad as I expected considering the topic. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Kimberly Waller | 1/13/2014

    " Loved this one. I really enjoyed learning a bit about the details of convent life. I actually enjoyed that aspect a bit more than some of the plot elements. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Melissa | 12/30/2013

    " Interesting topic, the forced entry into a convent. I liked the narrative for the depth of historical coverage. It seemed a bit to good to be true, I couldn't quite swallow the neatly tied up strings at the end. However, the book entertained and educated me. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Cath | 12/22/2013

    " Read by a 38, 65 and 17 year old on holiday. Everyone who read it enjoyed it. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Patty | 10/19/2013

    " Great fact-based fictional account of life in an Italian convent when a family could only afford to marry off one daughter due to high dowry prices around the 1500's. A story of true love. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Mary Fuller | 9/7/2013

    " I didn't think I was going to enjoy this as much as the other two Renaissance books, but it ended up a bit of a thriller!!! Enjoyed it!!! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Dillon | 3/26/2013

    " I really enjoyed this book. The characters felt quite real and natural, and I found myself wrapped in great anticipation over the plot. The history was quite accurate and it served to further my enjoyment of the book. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Mellissa Alonso | 1/21/2013

    " Made me think differently about life in a convent and the struggles women experienced both inside and outside the convent walls. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Marina Doneda | 7/20/2012

    " Very good! Dunant has to be one of my favorite authors. I thought her others were a bit better, but this one was very good as well! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Linda | 4/10/2012

    " This is a bit of a soap opera in the convent, but a good story that held my attention. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Niki | 3/22/2012

    " I want to stay up all night to read this. So good!!! There are 50-75 pages in the middle that got a little drawn on. But it picked up even better after than. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Paula | 10/1/2011

    " Very interesting book that does a great job re-creating the world of Benedictine nuns. An easy read and compelling story. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Bradley Cuzen | 8/17/2011

    " Such an evocative, compelling story. Highly recommended! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Stephanie | 7/24/2011

    " The changing voices and perspective from chapter to chapter sort of threw me at first but by the end I was completely drawn into the characters and the setting. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Ashley | 6/2/2011

    " It was an interesting story that made me want to keep reading. Not the best book I've ever read, but fits onto my top shelf. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Teresa | 5/29/2011

    " If you ever wondered what 16th century life was like in a nunnery...then read this book. Fairly depressing though. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Elizabeth | 5/22/2011

    " Historical researched book of women in renaissance Italy as they live and thrive in a Nunnery. Characters are intriguing and story line speaks of the beauty (music and plays) and the not so beautiful (deviance with in the convent) as the roles of the characters are described. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Ismail | 5/16/2011

    " Thoroughly enjoyed this book, excellent story line with well developed rich complex characters. Think I may have to read more by Sarah Dunant. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Melanie | 5/12/2011

    " It certainly wasn't "The Birth of Venus", but it was a good read. The ins and outs of convent life in the 1500's were fascinating to me, plus she threw in a little natural medicine for good measure.
    "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Ellen | 5/4/2011

    " This was a surprisingly layered book that is remarkably well-researched. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Meg | 5/3/2011

    " let me just say-i'm glad I wasn't a woman in the 1500's. geez...this book was excellent, but you could feel the suffication. i almost stopped reading, it was so uncomfortable. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Deb | 4/20/2011

    " I liked this story. It got bogged down with details sometimes but on the whole, it was engaging. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Aleena | 4/19/2011

    " Absolutely loved the look into a 16th Century Convent and the way that life migh thave been. The author has a good grasp of history and writes and love-story of sorts that touches on the political and social struggle within the convent not just the practices. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Patricia | 4/13/2011

    " I loved this book. It was a very different story line from the norm. A page-turner for sure, and toward the end I was almost sweating! This one really was intriguing! "

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About the Author
Author Sarah Dunant

Sarah Dunant is the author of the international bestsellers The Birth of Venus and In the Company of the Courtesan, Sacred Hearts, and Blood and Beauty, which have received major acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic. Her earlier novels include three Hannah Wolfe crime thrillers, as well as Snowstorms in a Hot Climate, Transgressions, and Mapping the Edge.

About the Narrator

Rosalyn Landor has won twelve AudioFile Earphones Awards and been a finalist for the Audie Award. She has worked as an actor since the age of seven, both in Europe and the United States. Her extensive list of credits includes leading roles in film, theater, and audio productions, as well as in various miniseries on all the major television networks and in such productions as Masterpiece Theatre’s Sherlock Holmes and Rumpole of the Bailey.