Friday, 10 December 2010

Good reads

I finished Sacred Hearts by Sarah Dunant this morning. Published 2009, some of you will already have read and enjoyed it. A tale about nuns in a convent in Italy in the 1570s doesn't sound a likely theme for a good read, but I've been devouring it morning and last thing at night over the last three days and found it riveting. The first words hold the eye and the mind: Before the screaming starts, the night silence of the convent is alive with its own particular sounds. Who could resist an opening line like that? The writing is sure and the language suited to the time and place of the novel without being "worked" in any way, and the varied lives of the women are thoughtfully exposed. Fasting was commonplace among them, and reading of the reasons why it was done makes an interesting comparison with the tales of anorexia common today.

The story concerns a young girl taken into the convent against her will, but to talk about it would give away too much. Instead, let me recommend it for your TBR pile. Or even for your reading matter tonight!

I know I said I wouldn't talk about the weather, but let me just say that about three o' clock yesterday, the temperature went up and the thaw began. This morning we have patches of garden visible again. Now we stand by for floods as all that snow rolls off the hills.


Anita Davison said...

Talking about story openings, I thought this one was pretty compelling:
In the middle of January, 1544, Catherine de Medici, after ten years of fruitless marriage, surprised everyone by birthing a son. Her husband Henri, and her father-in-law Francis I, who had long given up hope of ever producing an heir for France, rejoiced with the whole country. Across the sea, Henry of England ground his teeth in frustration and Mary of Guise, Queen Dowager of Scotland, smiled in triumph and immediately put quill to paper.

Now wouldn't you want to keep reading after that?

Jen Black said...

I'm glad you liked it, Anita, and I don't think I'm going to change this one. Which is good because I must have changed the first paragraph of the first book in this trilogy about fifty times.