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Extended Audio Sample Sacred Hearts: A Novel, 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:
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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 by 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 by 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 by 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 by 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. "

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