It’s that time again! Time to discuss our book of the month: Sarah Dunant’s Sacred Hearts. In case you missed it, check out the book trailer to get an idea of what you’re missing.
Let’s hop to it!
I loved the way the book opened. The first chapter of Book 1 was an excellent introduction to the story and its setting: picturesque and detailed, but not overwrought. It reminded me of the opening sequence in a film, zooming in and out of all the various characters and story lines that would be introduced and fleshed out.
Overall, I enjoyed the book, but found it to be slightly dull. I’m not sure if it’s my modern mentality that strikes a sharp contrast to the slower pace of convent life? Or is it my aversion to religious “order”/s of all kinds? I have this strange obsession with Catholic nuns (my sister and I used to play Nuns, should I blame The Sound of Music?)– I’m fascinated by the details of their daily lives and routines, but shudder to think that I’d ever have a life quite so prescribed. (Devil’s advocate: my life is almost as rigid as the Convent schedule. Now: get up, go to work, work, come home, eat, sleep; Then: Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, Nones, Vespers, Compline, Matins. They just get cooler names for their schedules.)
Well, what more can I say? I read the book (I Don’t: A Contrarian History of Marriage in case you missed that memo). I didn’t find it to be controversial or contrarian or shocking or even subversive. I think Susan Squire presented the history of marriage in a straightforward and informative fashion. I enjoyed the book. It made me think a lot about what marriage means to me, but it didn’t ever really get under my skin or make me want to talk about it with other people. It was just sort of there.
What would have really interested me would have been a continuation of this narration to the present-day and an expansion that would include a look at marriage in other cultures and how our cultural intersections have changed the face of marriage in modern life. I understand that this book focuses on the West and the history of marriage, but I thought that Squire prematurely terminated her narrative. I find it particularly hard to swallow that she believes marriage hasn’t changed that much between now and the 16th century. But, let’s not be totally negative…
By now, I hope you’ve had a chance to enjoy our first historical fiction addition to the book club, Pope Joan. I’m a huge fan of any historical fiction that uses strong women as the storyline’s main catalyst, so this book had me at hello.
Pope Joan, by Donna Woolfolk Cross, follows the life and death of the Vatican’s only female pope [somewhat controversially] known to us today. The author explains her interest in the topic this way:
“I learned about Joan quite by accident. I was reading a book in French and came across a reference to a pope named “Jeanne.”…[T]he next day I went to the library and checked the Catholic Encyclopedia. Sure enough, there was an entry on Joan–the woman who lived disguised as a man and rose to become Pope of the Church in the ninth century.”
Here are a few stories that caught my eye this week– Continue reading