Review: Sisters of Arden by Judith Arnopp

Sisters of Arden

How will I find the strength to die a noble death, if there can be any nobility in a felon’s penalty?….Will I remember that God is merciful, that His forgiveness outweighs that of the king? Will I be strong enough to face it, or will I die like a screaming lunatic, fighting for blessed life until my final breath?

4/5 Stars


Synopsis

Arden Priory has remained unchanged for almost four hundred years. When a nameless child is abandoned at the gatehouse door, the nuns take her in and raise her as one of their own.
As Henry VIII’s second queen dies on the scaffold, the embittered King strikes out, and unprecedented change sweeps across the country. The bells of the great abbeys fall silent, the church and the very foundation of the realm begins to crack.
Determined to preserve their way of life, novitiate nuns Margery and Grace join a pilgrimage thirty thousand strong to lead the king back to grace.


My Thoughts

If you are looking for a happy book, this is not something I’d recommend. If your reading taste buds are craving a powerful historical fiction, however, then this is exactly what I would tell you to pick up next.

Despite the somewhat depressing nature of this book, I very much enjoyed reading it. You, the reader, will certainly embark on a pilgrimage of uncertainty, danger, and hardship. But there you will also see what it took for so many, so long ago, to summon up any ounce of bravery and drive within them to endure the suffering and cling to hope. You will see that although cruelty takes many forms in its parasitic existence, how kindness and regard for your fellow human speaks volumes, even during the darkest of times. You’ll see how strangers become family, leaning on one another for support and providing a sense of community. There is strength in numbers, but also danger.

I love a well written historical fiction. That is no secret. While there are SO many amazing HF books to absorb, unfortunately it can often be challenging for me to find one that truly suits my reading preferences, one that isn’t centered on a romance or more fiction than fact. I want historical fiction that uses imagination to turn those history book facts into a riveting story that places the reader in the shoes of those who lived it. Something that falls in the middle of a scale that measures fiction and non-fiction. I think the author did just that in this wonderfully written story.

The Sisters of Arden live a simple life in the middle of nowhere England, where they are bordering the line of extreme poverty. When they are turned out from their home, those whose pilgrimage stretch for miles will learn to draw on one another for strength. This story isn’t all sad or depressing though. You will get to experience moments of happiness through our characters, as they find pieces of joy in the small things and camaraderie in those around them. There are good times to be had around a small campfire, warmth, and family to share your burden with.

One aspect I appreciate about this book is that it’s not about the hardships of royalty, or England’s privileged. Rather, it puts the reader in the mind and heart of people with nothing to lose, who still manage to lose. I’ve heard the phrase, “reading fiction can make you more empathetic” and this book is just one example of what makes that a true statement. Reading pushes me to try and think more critically about what I read in the future, the next time I take a history class (for I am forever and always going back to college it seems 😉) or even when reading about current events. How one piece of historical fiction can encourage a person to think more critically about the world around them may sound pretty dramatic, wouldn’t you say? But it does. It can. These are the kinds of books I truly enjoy, ones that put me into the shoes of someone who’s shoes I rally don’t want to be in, and I wouldn’t want to trade places with.

And that’s basically it for my unintentionally ranty review. Overall, yes I would recommend this read to any historical fiction lovers out there. I received this as an ARC on Netgalley but I do believe it’s available for purchase as of December 2018. It was a wonderful read, and though it may be full of the nitty gritty hardships and depressing thoughts of those with little hope for the future, there are moments that give YOU hope for them, making you feel like you can go on even when they don’t feel the same. You can find the Goodreads page for Sisters of Arden here.


Let me know if you are planning to read this book, or if you have your own historical fiction recommendations for me. I’m ALWAYS on the lookout for more of those! And as always, I’d love to chat with you about your own preferences for reading HF, your likes, dislikes, etc. Thanks for reading!