Viqui G. (State College, PA)
"The Sisterhood" follows the trail of a medallion and of the Chronicle of the Convent of the Golondrinas. This trail crosses more than 5 centuries and 3 continents. The reader is introduced to many characters: nuns, orphans, parents, boyfriends, husbands etc.
With all of the time, place and character changes, I found myself just trying to follow the plot line or story arc. However, there were so many off-shoots of the story arc ( the Inquisition, religious intolerance, Inca culture, Spanish imperialism, feminism, art appreciation) that the novel becomes muddled and even simplistic.
In fairness, Helen Bryan's writing is very readable. The premise of the novel is intriguing, but I think she tried to fit too many themes, characters and sub-plots to make an effective novel.
Lucy B. (Urbana, OH)
There were several levels of this book, from year 1552 until 2000. There were several characters in the book and sometimes I found it hard to follow the back and forth stories. All in all I enjoyed the book and became engrossed in the story of Menina Ann Walker's life and the stories within the convents.
Beth C. (Sioux Falls, SD)
I thoroughly enjoyed this book even though I usually shy away from novels that delve into the Spanish Inquisition. However, this novel deftly weaves the story of a South American adoptee who grew up completely unaware of her real background and the story of a Spanish convent in the 15th century. Menina Walker has studied art history in college and decides to go to Spain to research her thesis on a lesser known Spanish painter. Not surprisingly, she finds herself at an ancient Spanish convent that was named for the swallows that come there every year. Menina has an old medal that came with her at her adoption that also has swallows on it. While there she begins to uncover some very old paintings which add a bit of mystery to the story. The way Helen Bryan weaves the old convent story with the new art historian plot is intriguing and well done.
I would recommend the book.
Judy G. (Carmel, IN)
The Sisterhood Captured Me
I became thoroughly engrossed in the book despite some imperfections already mentioned by other readers who gave it a 3 or 4 rating. The challenge of portraying the history in an engaging manner out ranks some of the inevitable "side effects" of that accomplishing that feat. Yes, following all the characters through the ages was challenging for the reader--yet doable even for an intuitive reader like me. I felt that having to do so made the book a richer reading experience than I might have otherwise had. Normally, I would have put a book aside with too many characters and facts; but to do so in this case would have been my loss.
The shift from the Spanish Inquisition to a modern day female character made Menina stand out as a little unreal compared to other women in the story; however, I believe the character was well developed and Menina's personality description is what causes some of that perception of shallowness in her character that other readers comment on. This was one of the best books I've read this year.
Joan C. (Warwick, RI)
This book has everything a reader could ask for - intrigue, romance, heroes, heroines, history, family and religion. Did I miss anything? I'm sure I did, so you need to read Sisterhood to find out what. Flashing the setting back and forth between modern and medieval times in Spain and "New Spain", you read to find out what the connection is between the characters then and now, bu It isn't until the very end that the author enlightens us. Set against the backdrop of a Catholic convent, young female babies and girls are left at the convent's gates because of the mores of the historical period. These children come under the nurturing care, love and teachings of nuns and novices of Las Golondrinas Convent. How wonderful to read a book full of love, hope and kindness and how these themes kept on being "played forward" in "Sisterhood".
Gail L. (Cypress, TX)
At the heart of Helen Bryan's novel, The Sisterhood, is a great story. It held my attention on several levels: historical information, women's issues, the Catholic Church. However,the author could not seem to decide if she was writing a work of historical fiction or a romance novel! The vehicle in which she presents her interesting story is weak.
The author is ambitious and tries to present too much information rather than giving more depth to her history.
The book held my attention from beginning to end, and I easily forgave obvious flaws in the writing style.
Georgette I. (Oxford, GA)
The Sisterhood by Helen Bryan is a good effort but doesn't quite make the grade. The characters are shallow and the story meanders. I found the attempt at interweaving past and present to be tedious and often confusing. While I am compuslive about completing a book, I was sorely tempted to put this one down. I gave it a 3 only because the historical research regarding the Inquisition is noteworthy.