Friday, April 26, 2013

Review of The Sisterhood by Helen Bryan

The Sisterhood is an enjoyable historical fiction contemporary mix, with a little bit of romance written by author Helen Bryan. The story follows the life of a woman named Menina Walker who was adopted from a Spanish convent, into a wealthy family and has lived a life of ease until a jarring experience causes her world to seemingly crash down. Menina has always been intrigued by the sparrow on medal she was given by her birth parents before their death in a tragic hurricane, so in an effort to immerse her self into finishing her college thesis and getting her mind off of the recent tragedy that is her relationship with her fiance, she travels to Spain to study the works of a famous 16th century artist who uses the exact sparrow as his signature as that on her medal. Before long, that trip becomes a nightmare when she is stranded in a village, mugged, and without a phone to call for help.

The local police officer takes Menina to a shelter where she can seek refuge until the passing of their religious holidays or a landline is open so that she is able to call home. Because of Menina's studies in art history, the officer suggests that she look at the old paintings the convent has in an effort to bring money to their humanity efforts. Menina searches through these paintings and what she finds is the history of the convent and women who escaped religious and gender persecution and journeyed ot America during the 1500s.

What I liked most about this novel would definitely be the moments in history that account for most of the book. During the periods in history following the women of the 1500s, Bryan manages to make the reader feel like they are actually right in the room with the women as they write into these diary's. I can smell the convent, see the swallows in their garden, and understand their fears as well as see their dreams. Bryan's character development is what carries the story when the novel becames a little... dull.

My feelings with this novel are that it begins as a promising novel. With the chronicle of one of the nuns describing what is now known as the Spanish inquisition, I was sure that the journey would be exciting. Ultimately this arresting moment lost most of its gusto when the novel introduces Menina. Menina was a bit characterless and I felt that was unfortunate because it could have made this novel a lot more pleasurable.  Although I understand Menina being necessary to show the parellels of women of history and modern ones, I think the nuns Bryan created in the chronicles  were very captivating and they deserved to be in the company of a strong protagonist such as them. Although the women's stories help Menina to have a coming of age of sorts, I still wanted her to have more substance through much more of the novel.

Overall, Bryan writes the historical moments as if they are happening now and supplies great knowledge and insight for readers. I imagine fans of women's fiction or book clubs will want to add this to their to-read lists. The novel is full of imagery, courageous women, and also moments that make me question how far the world has really come since the times of the Spanish Inquisition. After reading The Sisterhood, I have a greater appreciation for the women who came before me and the paved the way for me to live the life I live today.***

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