Book Review: The Sisterhood by Helen Bryan

Historical fiction has become quite a favorite genre of mine when it comes to reading so it was no surprise to me when I got The Sisterhood by Helen Bryan recommended on my reading list.

The Story

The story of The Sisterhood starts in 1552 in Andalusia, Spain inside Las Golondrinas Convent. Sister Beatriz takes you through the history of the conference, her life and the life of her fellow nuns and how they came about to join the convent. She is also the writer of these secret doctrines passed down from the Foundress of their convent, who is hinted to be a descendant of the Virgin Mary.

The convent has a history that predates its current Catholic occupants, and the nuns run an orphanage, are educated, and are well respected in the community. However, the Spanish Inquisition is threatening to unearth secret Jews and Moors in Spain to ensure the supremacy of the values of the church. The nuns worry that the Inquisition would also destroy their gospel so they decide to send out some of their younger nuns to protect the Chronicle must be protected.

The storyline then jumps to the present and talks about Menina Walker, a girl adopted by a god-fearing middle class Georgian family who rescued her after a hurricane devastated South America. She was found by a couple of coast guards as a baby with nothing but a medallion around her neck similar to the one described by Sister Beatriz.

Menina has led a comfortable life with her adopted parents but is completely unaware of her link to the Spanish convent. This doesn’t last long and certain events lead her to the covenant where she starts discovering new things about herself, the lost medal, the Chronicle, and the link between the two convents separated by the wide Atlantic Ocean.

Narration & Character Development

The narration has its ups and down. The book starts slow but picks up pace after the first 100 pages. The author has done alot of research on the influence of christianity in Spain and its quite visible in her narration. the transition between the past and present timeline is smooth however, the story does seem to be more inclined towards the past than the events in the present.

Character development is good but again, the characters of the past receive more attention than the characters in the present including the character of Menina. Menina is described as someone who never takes any risks and then she suddenly decides to go on a trip to Spain. To add to it, the events that happen in Spain and her reaction to it made me all the more confused about her personality.

16th Century Spanish Convent (stories written down in the Chronicle, along with the medal, the only things Menina has of her heritage): Although I think there are too many interlocking convent girls’ stories and it was at times hard to follow, this was the most interesting part of the novel. It was great to read about the past and see all the little connections between these different girls/women and Menina in the 21st century. It was a fun puzzle to put together, even if it was occasionally obvious.

My Review

As I mentioned, the book starts slow but picks up pace after a few chapters. The historical part of the book keeps you hooked to keep turning the pages however, the historical part ended up occupying eighty percent of the book so the present part of the story ended up getting a quick wrap up in the last few pages.

I did like the end of the novel but I was not happy about all the loose ends which were the result of the hasty narration when the story was concluded.

Final Verdict

The book is definitely an interesting read but you do need to be a little patient with the narration. The research behind the story is the strength of the book and does balances out the loopholes in the narration and character development. All in all, a good read but not the best historical fiction out there

Have you read this book?

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