Sacred Hearts by Sarah Dunant, is a story about rebellion and keeping the peace. An odd mix. The story centers around two women. Suora Zuana is a nun, and has been confined to the convent for over sixteen years. She has earned the position of Dispensary Mistress and also runs the infirmary. She is essentially the convent's doctor although that title would never be allowed her. Novice Serafina is a teenager, brought to the convent against her will. She is strong and willful. She is determined to leave the convent, wanting desperately to return to the man she loves. The two women forge a friendship that neither expected.
Sacred Hearts explores the politics of a sixteenth century Italian convent. The story takes place in a convent that is well respected and has great wealth. The convents would take the daughters of the wealthy and those with good names as they would receive a dowry, much as a groom would if she were to marry. The women were broken down into acceptance of their fate. Most would never leave the walls again.
I found the story to be completely enthralling and interesting. I know very little about convent life and I learned a great deal. The author took what could have been a preachy, dull story and turned it into one where the characters were important enough to want to know what would happen. Each of the nuns, whether they were old and infirm or young and spoiled, had secrets. Each had opinions that they were not allowed or encouraged to share. Each had desires, skills, talents, and gifts that they were only able to pursue with limits.
I highly recommend this book to fans of historical novels, women's literature, and to anyone who is interested in a life that few get to experience.