Sacred Hearts

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Sacred Hearts

I,ve just finished  Sacred Hearts and have enjoyed it. This is surprising as I am not a historical fiction fan and would not have chosen a Sarah Dunnant read.

I did feel sucked in from the start by the four main characters, who were so skillfully drawn and believable, even in the bizarre world of an enclosed order which is so alien to today,s society..My favorite character is Madonna Chiara who walks the tightrope of convent politics so cleverly. She is devout but worldly. On page 394 comments, “She is only a young woman who did not want to be a nun. The world is full of them.” In other words, it,s tough but that,s how things are, just get on with it!

I did find the happy ending rather far fetched; would that actually have happened? Even with the threat of change decreed by the Council of Trent and all the internal politics going on, I doubt it. I think Serafina would have come to a much stickier end.

It is interesting that half of all young well born women were forced into the religious life which must have been hellish whether or not you had a calling. It does show how little women were valued; seen only as a commodity and allowed no choices. When Isabetta offers to take a smaller dowry to marry her music teacher, “Her father,s fury had torn the tapestries off the wall”, and she was beaten almost senseless..Yet, nuns were respected by the populous who didn,t care that they were forced into the life. Very strange.

Need something a bit more cheery next time.

Brighton Rock

I am some way in to my second reading of BR. Apart from the pacy story, which contrasts so much with the spare, laid-back, almost terse tone of the narrative, I really enjoyed the ambiguities in the characters – pinky for example who seems to live in a land of fantasy, and who is gripped by catholicism in a way boys of his age would find hard to identify with today. Even though

Brighton Rock

Brighton Rock

A tortuous tangled writhe through low life which never seems to rise into the world of normality. This nasty little tale brings to mind a wounded animal floundering in the muddy shallows of life, snapping at everything and anything that gets in its way. This entwined with much religious doctrine and iconography only serves to make the book even more bleak and distasteful. The blowsy Ida tries to bring a more moral tone to the novel although she herself has many flaws in a story where the characters are at best vaguely colourful but mostly shadowy and grey. There is a threatening tone from start to finish and I think this is what keeps the reader interested – personally I was rooting for Rose to actually survive the whole Pinkie experience. Charlotte.

Pinkie and Ida

I have thoroughly enjoyed the tussle between these 2 characters who seem to have parallel existences in the plot. I don’t think they ever really know much about each other – and considering how important they are to each other this seems odd.

Pinkie’s spiral has elements of black humour in it – and I was tickled by the way he kept speculating about the ‘massacre’ he would need to keep his original murder quiet – if it was a murder… He just seems to keep digging does poor old Pinkie – while his nemesis Mr Colleoni seems to float along quite at ease, I half expected a showdown between them, but the innocence of Pinkie’s character prevents him ever being able to conduct himself as a real – self-actualised mobster after Kite’s demise.

I visualized Ida as a kind of Pam Ferris character. Her dogged nature and apparent fearlessness seem reminiscent of many of Pam’s characters. Her relationship with Phil Corkery was odd. What sort of a man was he? I guess he was just someone to boss around. He seemed a weak link in the characters, unless I’ve missed something. She seemed an innocent sort as well. 

I felt that there were a lot of innocents in this story, despite all of the violence and cruelty, even the baffled policeman at the end – who was described as a ‘stranger at a party’; but still a good aim with a truncheon, thankfully.


Gill’s missing post

Hi, have started the Yacoubian Building and found the range of characters a bit disconcerting….had to keep referring to the list at the front. Very considerate of the author to supply this! I,ve now got to page 83 and am enjoying it. The culture is well observed, disturbing, but comical,and it is not surprising that the book caused consternation in the Arab world.It portrays a hierarchical society where woman are subjugated,but learn to play the game to keep their jobs.
I do find it sad but hilarious at the same time. Love the volatile relationship between Zaki Bey and his sister. Zaki is my favourite character”…love the paragraph on p63 when he had removed his false teeth to kiss the Beloved! Then she robbed him!
Looking forward to the rest of the book.


The Yacoubian Building

I know I saw a post from Gill here and even commented on it but can’t find it now. Anyway like you Gill I found the cast of characters confusing at times and constantly had to refer back to the, very helpful list, of characters for clarification. This is probably because, in my case, the names are rather difficult being unfamiliar. Also fairly off-putting was the constant switch in characters which, whilst adding an element of interest, caused a break in concentration and required some thought as to who the author was talking about and what they were actually doing at that point in the narrative. On the whole I found the story absorbing and was grateful for the conclusions although they came to rather an abrupt end. It was interesting to read about life ‘from the other side’ so to speak and I must admit it rather captivated me. I have limited experience of Egypt and its culture but have visited a few times to places like Alexandria, Cairo and the Nile area and I have to say the bribery, corruption and greed are all readily noticeable even from a tourist’s point of view. We were constantly harangued at every point for tips and I have even been asked, by officials, for the coins seen in my luggage by the x-ray machines. As for the sex, well I have to leave that to the imagination. I was surprised that such an explicit book was permitted in a muslim country and can understand why it was such a ‘hit’ at the time. Charlotte