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Books about nuns

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Divia
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Books about nuns

Post by Divia » Sun August 16th, 2009, 4:39 pm

Every since I tried to read Sacred Hearts by Sarah Dunant I have been wondering if there were more books about nuns out there. I find it fascinating. If anyone could list a few that would be great.

BTW I gave up on Hearts because it was soooooo slowww.
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Telynor
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Post by Telynor » Sun August 16th, 2009, 5:41 pm

I would suggest any of the following:

Medieval Nunneries by Eileen Power, nonfiction, scholar, but worth the effort to read.

In this House of Brede by Rumer Godden, fiction, about a modern businesswoman who gives it all up to take the veil. Still the best fiction novel about nuns out there.

The early Margaret Fraser novels about Sister Fevrisse, set in a 14th century English nunnery where a very clever sluething nun lives.

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Madeleine
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Post by Madeleine » Sun August 16th, 2009, 6:47 pm

If you like the Sister Fevrisse books, then the Hawkenlye series by Alys Clare also features a nun as the "leading lady" - the Abbess Helewise, although she has a hunky knight to do her sleuthing for her!
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Ash
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Post by Ash » Sun August 16th, 2009, 6:47 pm

There is also a series of Irish mysteries that take place in the early middle ages (5-600 ce), with an Abbess as the investigator. Can't remember the name

annis
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Post by annis » Sun August 16th, 2009, 7:18 pm

I'm sure that you're thinking of Peter Tremayne's "Sister Fidelma" mysteries, Ash.

There's a new medieval nun mystery series out as well, by Cassandra Clark, featuring Hildegard, Abbess of Meaux. I didn't feel that Hildegard thought and acted in a way consistent with the fourteenth century, though, so that was a black mark from me.

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Divia
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Post by Divia » Sun August 16th, 2009, 7:20 pm

I dont like mysteries.
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Julianne Douglas
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Post by Julianne Douglas » Sun August 16th, 2009, 11:50 pm

Divia,

One of my absolute favorite books is about a group of Carmelite nuns who were guillotined during the French Revolution, To Quell the Terror by William Bush. I learned SO much about the French Revolution by reading this book--I'd never realized the extent to which priests and nuns who wouldn't recant their vows were persecuted by the revolutionary government. Although this book is nonfiction, it reads very easily and quickly and provides amazing examples of courage and commitment to something greater than oneself. It is not preachy "religious" literature but a factual account that strives to present each of the nuns as an individual with her own fears and strengths, as well as illustrate aspects of the revolution that few are familiar with.
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Celia Hayes
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Novels About Nuns

Post by Celia Hayes » Mon August 17th, 2009, 12:11 am

The Nun's Story, by Kathryn Hulme - along with a strong second for "In This House of Brede". Alas, the Nun's Story seems to be out of print, and second-hand copies rather pricey. I read it as a teenager, and was rather impressed.
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Miss Moppet
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Post by Miss Moppet » Mon August 17th, 2009, 1:16 am

There's Diderot's La Religieuse/The Nun which is a first person story, written in the 1760s, about a woman, Suzanne, forced to take the veil, her different experiences in various convents and how she tries to free herself. I had to read this in college and really enjoyed it.

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Post by Chatterbox » Mon August 17th, 2009, 2:25 am

Rumer Godden has written several books about nuns, none of which are really historical fiction. In This House of Brede was excellent, capturing the feeling of what it must be like to live in an enclosed order with women around you of very different personalities/characters; Five for Sorrow, Ten for Joy was very different, but also good. Then there is Black Narcissus, set in India, where the plot revolves around the nuns' idea of 'good' versus the customs of the country. It was turned into a very good film in the 1950s or so. I believe Godden was a Catholic convert.

Mary Laven wrote a very good NF book about the role of nuns in Venetian society -- as a refuge for the wealthy daughters of the nobility who didn't marry. There are at least two HF books that deal, in part, with Venetian convents of that era. One is by Laurel Corona, Vivaldi's Virgins (I just listed my own copy on PaperbackSwap); the other is Rosalind Laker's book, which deals a bit with the Pieta choir.

The nun's story by Kathryn Hulme is also excellent.

For some reason, most of the HF about nuns revolves around abbesses solving mysteries...

In the contemporary literature, there's an excellent novel by Mark Salzman, entitled Lying Awake, about a cloistered Carmelite nun. It's poignant and, I think, beautifully written. You may not find it that lively, as it's pretty much revolving around the nun's spiritual life.

Karen Armstrong, who has made a name for herself as a scholar of religion, was a nun in England in the 1960s, and has written an excellent book about life in the convent (in the run up to and around the time of Vatican II) -- Through the Narrow Gate. She followed it, 15 plus years later, with another excellent book about coming to grips with the effect the convent had on her. -- The Spiral Staircase. Similarly, a former American nun, Mary Pat Kelly, wrote a memoir entitled Special Intentions.

In a different NF vein, there's A Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris. She wrestles much less with issues of faith/theology than either Armstrong or Kelly -- but then, she wasn't a nun. It's a different perspective.

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