Excerpt from The Nightingales of Troy by Alice Fulton, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Nightingales of Troy

By Alice Fulton

The Nightingales of Troy
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • Hardcover: Jul 2008,
    256 pages.
    Paperback: Jul 2009,
    256 pages.

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Karen Rigby

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


Once we got to St. Cieran’s, Edna led me through the high brick gates into a big garden patch out back. There was Sister lying down in the dirt. A blunt knife and a jar of water were on the ground nearby. She looked dazed but awake. “Was I struck by lightning?” she said, looking up at me with great gray eyes.

I knew I had to get her out of that sun posthaste, but she proved hard to move as a trolley off its track. As I tried to raise her, I noticed an open can of gummy brown perfumy stuff fastened to her belt. When I saw her bare feet, I thought this Sister is a rugged little number - light yet durable, scanty yet galvanized. Once I got her up, Edna wedged herself under one arm, I got under the other, and we limped toward the convent.

As we stepped into the cool gloom of the place, I was struck by its smell of starched linen and dusty paraffin. Though it was a hotter-than-blazes Indian summer day, some frosty twilight poured from the high windows. Sister Honoraria (for she was our fallen nun) said the others were at prayers and must not be disturbed on her account. “Let me take up my cross,” she said, “or I will never have my crown.” She directed us through waxed amber corridors, up an oak stairway to the nuns’ dormitory.

The Sisters’ beds were separated by sheets hung from poles to make cells the size of small box stalls, maybe six feet square. We entered Sister’s alcove through a curtain and laid her down on her iron cot. The place was dark as an icehouse. It took a while to make out the white wooden box, straight plain chair, washstand, soap dish, and tin cup that were the furnishings. I told Edna to go rescue the kids from Kitty and ask Papa to fetch Doc Muswell.

I then set about pulling the heavy togs off Sister. She spoke of this and that she had to do, but I said the doctor was coming, and she was too listless to argue. When I unfastened the strings of her headpiece, I was surprised to find that the starched bonnet had prickers on its inside. I saw they’d left marks on the skin and stubby scalp of her. Under her habit was a muslin gown big as a croup tent, and as I wrassled with her outer outfit, this undergarment pulled in such a way that I glimpsed a scar, livid and cross-shaped, on her ribs. “You got a bad cut there, Sister,” I said, just to keep the conversation going.

“Here cut and here burn, but spare me in eternity,” she said.

“How’d you get a cut like that?” I had lockjaw on my mind.

“No doubt you’ve heard tales,” she said. “People, even good people, are given to falsehood and exaggeration. And yet I would do wrong to say I did no wrong.” She asked about the can that had been fastened at her waist, and I said I’d put it out of the way, under the cot.

“If I had walked too heavily, or used my eyes with liberty, or kissed an infant for its beauty . . . for these sins, I might be forgiven,” she continued.

“Nobody’s perfect,” I said.

“Perfection is a nun’s purpose,” she replied. “She must wash the taste of the world from her mouth with carbolic and sleep on thorns lest she sleep too well. If the chapel is cozy, let her kneel in snow. If for an instant she forgets Christ’s suffering, let her take switches to her shoulders, brand herself with faggots, wear an iron chain about her waist.”

I was beginning to think this Sister was a deep customer. “The worst sin is shiftlessness,” I said. “It’s better to shuck your blues and shake a leg.”

“Perhaps tales have reached you. Vile accusations have been made,” she said, “concerning the orphans. That I had them kneel like dogs and used their backs as writing desks, when in fact they are raised most tenderly.”

“That I didn’t know,” I said.

Reprinted from The Nightingales of Troy by Alice Fulton. Copyright (c) 2008. With permission of the publisher, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Pope and Mussolini
    The Pope and Mussolini
    by David I. Kertzer
    The Pope and Mussolini is a riveting account of the parallel rise to power of the authoritarian ...
  • Book Jacket: The Promise
    The Promise
    by Ann Weisgarber
    Canadian author, Lucy Maud Montgomery of Anne of Green Gables fame, once wrote that "...all things ...
  • Book Jacket: Black Moon
    Black Moon
    by Kenneth Calhoun
    The popularity of book-turned-movie World War Z and television series The Walking Dead points to a ...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your
horizons.

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

Sailor Twain
by Mark Siegel

Published Mar. 2014

Join the discussion!

Win this book!
Win The Steady Running of the Hour

The Steady Running of the Hour

"Exciting, emotionally engaging and amibtious. I loved it!" - Kate Mosse

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

I T T O A Eye

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.