Sorry, I am late yet again with my Things I’m reading Thursday post – and ONS has been pretty quiet this week in spite of my best intentions. My rather pathetic excuse is I’ve been up against two deadlines this week… normal service will be resumed, I promise! To make it up to you, there’s a brand new ONS giveaway — details at the end of this post. In the meantime, here’s what I’ve been reading this past seven days; feel free to share your books (and thoughts thereupon) too…
Sacred Hearts by Sarah Dunant
OK, if someone had said ‘hey, read this book – it’s 500 pages long and set in an Italian convent in 1570’, I’d have run a mile – in a bookstore full of fiction, this might well have been the last book I’d have chosen to read. However, because it’s required reading for me at the moment, there was no way out… so I braced myself and dived in.
I was actually quite pleasantly surprised – particularly since I’d tried to ease myself into the book by reading some reviews, and one or two I found were pretty savage. The book basically follows the story of a young novice who enters the Ferrara Convent against her will, and focuses on her relationship with one of the long-serving nuns who empathises with her plight. Unfortunately, Dunant makes the mistake of painting Zuana, the older nun, far more vividly than Serafina, the supposed protagonist – for me, Zuana was the more interesting of the two and I couldn’t really get a grip on Serafina’s character. The book also contains vivid and sometimes harrowing descriptions of convent life – nuns mistaking extreme fatigue and sickness for divine ecstasies, self-mutilation in the name of faith, etc. However, Dunant does not give a one-dimensional portrayal of these women – all the nuns display a degree of religious fanaticism, and many are vain, proud, jealous and secretive. The novel really comes to life in the passages where Dunant describes the small vanities of the sisters – their surreptitious personal grooming, the pampering of their pet lapdogs – I was far more interested in hearing about the trivial details of convent life than about tortured Serafina and her thwarted love affair. So I think perhaps I missed the point of this novel… but I did enjoy it, in spite of myself. I’d recommend it, but beware – like The Wonder from last week, it is also really, really (perhaps somewhat needlessly) long.
I’ve also been dipping in and out of various poetry books – too many to list here – in order to find inspiration for my forthcoming portfolio deadline. So instead of picking one of the many I’ve been looking at, I thought it was high time for another ONS giveaway. Last summer I was sent a little package of poetry books by the lovely people at Donut Press — this is another of those. Frankie, Alfredo, by Liane Strauss is up for grabs and Donut describe it thus: “poems of great ingenuity, humour and charm. This feminine metaphysical verse frequently explores aspects of desire, and holds at its heart a number of seeming contradictions: it is often ironic yet romantic, passionate yet deftly controlled, intellectual yet accessible, and displays wit counterbalanced with modesty.” Who could refuse such a book? I’d be tempted to add that it’s small but mighty – about A6 size – and has cover art to die for. Want a free copy? Just tell me what you’re reading this week in the comments box, before Thursday 28th. Simple!
(Photo by Montgolfier)
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