Reeling from a broken engagement, adopted 19-year-old Menina Walker flees to Spain to bury her misery by writing her overdue college thesis - and soon finds herself on an unexpected journey into the past. The subject of her study is Tristan Mendoza, an obscure 16th-century artist whose signature includes a tiny swallow - the same swallow depicted on a medal that is Menina’s only link to her birth family.
Hoping her research will reveal the swallow’s significance and clue her in to her origins, Menina discovers the ancient chronicle of a Spanish convent, containing the stories of five orphaned girls hidden from the Spanish Inquisition before they escaped to the New World. Learning about the girls’ adventures, the nuns who sheltered them, and Mendoza, Menina wonders if accident or destiny led her to Spain - and the discovery of a lifetime.
From best-selling author Helen Bryan comes The Sisterhood, an epic adventure filled with history, passion, and intrigue.
©2013 Helen Bryan (P)2013 Brilliance Audio, Inc.
Deeper and more inventive writing, including thorough character development, suspense and a plausible storyline that makes you feel something.
And then, parts of the research were rather alarming for an historical novel. To avoid spoilers, they can't all be listed. But the silliest is a junior college grad, who couldn't pick up Spanish conversation in the modern day, being able to translate a miraculously well-preserved medieval Spanish text and, with the aid of a dictionary, vulgar Latin too!
Probably not. The unabashed Catholic bashing coupled with the good girl focus of this book was off-putting - though I am neither a Catholic or a bad girl. It struck me as a book appealing to christian evangelicals, who mistake dabbling for rigorous study.
The nasal quality and repetitive lilt of the Spanish voices grew increasingly irritating. Made every female Hispanic character succumb to the Speedy Gonzales drawl from Looney Tunes. The frequent slips into American English and inconsistent application of Castilan were notable as well.
The trite situations, stereotyped characters and neat endings that drive this book make the positive reviews from Amazon baffling. Good girls get their rewards after a struggle or two; bad girls see the error of their ways, etc. Epiphanies abound, yet never scratch the surface of social norms. "Just awful" things are placed where they belong: out of reach of the storyline. Convenient plot devices implode reality. Coincidences. Visions. Miracles too. Rather nauseating overall.
I really wanted to love this book. It's a good premise, but it's just not very well written. The main character does uncharacteristic things to get into trouble, the prose is uninventive, and there is a distinct lack of action for the heroine. I think the reader does a decent job with the book but some characters come off as too nasally and almost mumble their dialogue. A mediocre audiobook all the way around.
The characters were all stereotypes; Menina - the good girl, her parents - the hayseeds from GA, the nuns, ah the nuns! - all old lady nun stereotypes. And the narration. My first irritation was the adoptive parents' fake-y southern accents. If I'd been the Mother Superior at the orphanage, I wouldn't have approved the adoption, not because the they were Southern Baptists, though I think that would have given most Catholic nuns pause, but because they didn't seem quite bright.
Lots of things happen to Menina that don't make sense - first of all, her name, which if I remember correctly was the middle name of some relative of her parents. Menina....really? I live in GA and I've never heard it as a given name.
The narration also included lots of fake-y Spanish accents, some Castillian, some not. And everyone could always seem to speak another language if it moved the story along and be unable to if it didn't. Menina particularly, who apparently knew Spanish well but at one point was too tired to speak it.
I guess I understand the use of a Spanish-y accent for people when they are speaking Spanish in the book, but I don't understand using it for the 3rd person narrative parts. It's an English book written for people who speak English.
I also found jumping back and forth in time an annoyance - sometimes I didn't know which time I was in because the characters in both times were similar - young women and nuns in the same rickety old convent.
All in all, it was a slow-go for me. I read about 2/3 of it and skipped to the (predictable) end and don't feel I missed anything.
And what's up with the swallow?
The beginning was so good- such a page turner- but about three quarters of the way through I found myself bored and not that concerned about what happened to the myriad of characters anymore. The story becomes melodramatic and unbelievable. I also found the brief description of Christ towards the end to be really offensive as I imagine most Christians would (she portrays him as basically an evil sorcerer as a kid- other characters actually call him such- What a strange and unsubstantiated idea).
There are some books that are enriched by their audio performance; this is not one of those.
The story is interesting, tracing the history of a Catholic sisterhood that used its convent to protect non-Catholic (Jewish and Muslim) girls and women from the Church's Inquisition, eventually moving them to safety in South America. The author creates a character, a child adopted from South America by Southern Christians, who helps uncover some of the history and the secrets of Los Golondrinos, the Spanish sisterhood.
The performance, however, does not add to the story. Most of the book is narrated in a fake Spanish accent, with some parts in a fake Southern accent. As someone who is familiar with the differences among Spanish, Mexican, Honduran, Guatemalan, and Argentine accents, as well as the differences among various parts of the American South, the narrative voices were fake and annoying.
The narrator also used a high-pitched fake Spanish accent for many of the nuns, especially the older ones. This was even more irritating to me as a listener.
In the voice of a better narrator, or read on paper, this might be a better book.
The narrator ruined this book for me. I almost quit listening, but was very interested in the story. The narrator seems to think everyone who speaks with a southern accent does so with a high pitched scream. Her rendition of a Spanish accent was no better. The story itself switches back and forth between the mid 1500's and the Inquisition and modern days. It's fascinating.
Normally I am not into historical fiction but this book was the exception. I LOVED “The Sisterhood”.
As a young girl I had read about the horrors of the Spanish Inquisition that terrorized all in its path but this book brought it to life. It becomes real as the reader learns about love, betrayal, loyalty, forgiveness, redemption and faith during that time period. It shows how the male dominated Catholic Church ruled and ordered atrocities against any behavior that was not approved by them. This is a wonderful story about how nuns helped other women in times when males treated women as having little value.
“The Sisterhood” is a novel composed of two intertwined stories. One story is played out against the Spanish Inquisition and the other takes place in modern times.
A young woman in the present named Menina Walker has a chronicle, written mostly in Latin, and a medal that she was found with when she was orphaned. When her parents adopted her from a South American orphanage the nuns returned the medal to her new parents and included a chronicle of the nun’s order to be given to Menina when she grew older.
Following a traumatic experience and broken engagement, Menina goes to Spain to write a thesis on a Spanish painter. Her search turns from the thesis and leads her across countries and centuries as she learns the truth about her chronicle, medal and her own identity. It reveals a secret that will impact the Catholic Church.
The book did get somewhat confusing with the way it kept changing time periods. This was my only complaint. It was sometimes difficult to keep the characters straight as the story moves back and forth through these centuries. Although it sounds like a counter diction, the book was fairly easy to read once I got the characters/centuries straight. I hated to see the book end.
I was completely engrossed from the first chapter. Helen Bryan is quickly becoming my favorite writer.
Historical fiction is my favorite genre. Laura's voice drew me so into the story. It was as if I was there personally witnessing the scenes
playing out before me.
Helen Bryan has melded fact and fictionalized history in a story told live in the past and live in the present, without the reader ever feeling it was retrospective. Laura Roppe's performance brought each of the many heroines to life in a way that was surprisingly easy to recognize each as their stories grew. Together they created a moving story of the triumph of women across the ages.
I congratulate Helen Bryan for tapping into the treasure hold of stories that can spring from historical Spain and Latin America. Her intentions are laudable but work falls short. I agree with those who comment about the characterizations. They feel like a telenovela cast. Often the author short cuts nuanced character development with flat stereotypes. This might be harmless except the underlying theme is one of revealing human unity and harmony despite religion or gender. That's a big job for cardboard characters. The author finds herself proclaiming it more than proving it.
Best scene: when the four girls reach South America and the description of the cosmopolitan world of the harbour juxtaposing their sheltered convent experiences.
Worst section: the long awaited revelation of the gospels about the foundress. The stories were trite.
I loved every minute and could not stop listening! A fantastic reader's voice and now my favorite historical fiction.
The part about Spain in 2000 is shocking, isolated, no phones... Unbelievable. Otherwise the story is catchy and you want to go on reading.
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