Annie P. (Murrells Inlet, SC)
The Sisterhood by Helen Bryan
is no easy book to read. It's long, it's slow in places, and there are so many facts and references there is no way to keep track of them all. Besides, there are a host of characters who must all be acknowledged and remembered that it is a challenge to get through this story. But, the great thing is, it is worth it! I was afraid at times that I was reading heresy and nearly put the book down, but I'm glad I didn't; the story is compelling. I carried my book everywhere I went, a few minutes here, half an hour there, until I finally came to the end, only to decide I need to read it again just because it is such a terrific story. Menina is a perfect protagonist, a regular person who was given a gift of such magnitude, the ability to search out the meaning of her work, and be able to develop it so fully.
Thank you, Ms. Bryan, for this gift.
Edie M. (Kennett Square, PA)
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. I thought the characters were compelling and extremely interesting. They kept calling me back.
I would not recommend this book for the younger audience.
Also, if you are interested in religion, you will enjoy this read.
Mary D. (Claremont, CA)
Unlike the last book I reviewed, this one definitely lived up to my expectations ... some good art history and some wonderful history into the time of the Inquisition in Spain and in the New World, all told from the perspective of nuns and common women. There is a "mystery" which starts the story, tracing back to the Inquisition. Even though the book "jumps" from 1550-1560's to modern day, it was easy to follow. The characters are exceptionally well-defined, their quiet strength and sense of right-and-wrong are evident and, in an odd sense, comforting in this day of mixed messages and misdirected morals. Helen Bryan's writing style is clear and concise but very descriptive. The ship voyages were wonderfully described, with all their drawbacks and limitations, and the convents were places of peace and quiet, even while the inhabitants were very colorful personalities. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, had trouble putting it down in fact; I read the first two-thirds of the book in one day!!
Kathleen S. (Oshkosh, WI)
"The Sisterhood" tells the tale of an isolated order of nuns in Spain and how it may be connected to an orphan found in the aftermath of a hurricane on the Pacific Coast of South America. The story jumps back and forth between the 1500's and the present day, drawing you into the lives of both the medieval nuns and the orphan, and making you anxious to discover the secrets they are keeping.
The book concentrates much more on the story of the nuns during the time of the Inquisition than on the present day, and that was fine with me. I really enjoyed the history and thought the author did an excellent job creating believable characters that I wanted to learn more about. The way the author ties the intertwining stories together is a bit over-the-top toward the very end of the book, but I still enjoyed it immensely. I'm planning to visit Spain next year and now I'm even more excited for my trip - I'd like to visit some of the areas described in the story.
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.
Mary Lou F. (Naples, FL)
Exchange of historical events
Excellent back and forth details of Spanish Inquisition and modern day times. Historical religious beliefs interwoven with modern times make for a wonderful piece of work.