>Giveaway:HF Bloggers Round Table: The Secret of the Glass Event: Marriage or Cloister?

>Welcome to the continuation of the Round Table Week promoting The Secret of the Glass. Read my review of The Secret of The Glass here.


You have two chances to win Donna Russo Morin’s newest historical novel, The Secret of the Glass.
The Round Table is giving away 1 paperback copy to a lucky participant who comments at the main site at http://historicalfictionroundtable.com/?p=175. A separate giveaway is running for the beautiful glass pendant featured above, click the picture to reach that contest form.

You can also qualify for the book giveaway of the ARC of The Secret of the Glass by following the instructions at the end of this post.

Marriage or Cloister? Which would you choose?

For devotes, the alternative to marriage was clear. The woman who did not marry had no respectable option but to embrace the religious life. “Maritus aut murus” – a husband or a cloister – these were her only choices. By custom and by law she was considered too weak to live otherwise. “The common expression which tells parents to give their daughter ‘either a husband or a cloister’ seems to be based on hidden law by which woman is born to spend her life under the control and the guidance of others.” ~ The Devotes: Women and Church in Seventeenth-Century France By Elizabeth Rapley

Although focusing on France, the above quote holds true for Venice in the time of Donna Russo Morin’s newest novel, The Secret of the Glass. The additional hindrance adding to the sad reality of the above quote was the fact that Italy had an impossible dowry system for many of the families. The fifteenth century saw a huge inflation to a required dowry in order to secure a suitable mate for a dreaded daughter. Many women were forced into convents due to the lack of a dowry, which was set at an extremely high amount. What was originally supposed to be treated as an inheritance for the bride to retain at the end of said marriage, became something that was inevitably lost to the future husband. Families struggled to obtain these large sums that the high dowries dictated as it was a harsh reality that had to be adhered to if hopes of a good lineage was to be obtained for anyone in the family. More than likely, the rest of the daughters were to be cloistered in a convent, some of which in those days were reputed to be no better than a brothel.  
Nun in cloister

In reading Sarah Dunant’s novel, Sacred Hearts in 2009 (my review), this issue regarding a young woman’s future was also considered a main theme. This story had focused on the women who were indeed compelled to choose God as their only mate as they were forced into a strict convent. In Dunat’s novel it also was apparent that the family who had enough money could at least choose a better convent as opposed to one not so popular. Some convents had access to funds from wealthier patrician families offering better foods, books, music or perhaps customs were not so strict as others. Interestingly enough, “nun” and the religious form of “sister” have distinct meanings in the Catholic Church, in most cases determined by the vows they take, solemn vows vs. simple vows, and the amount of good works devoted to the poor that are expected. To become a nun and live in a Catholic convent, the main requirement that is different that others is that one must eventually take the solemn vows and and recite the Liturgy of the Hours or other prayers within the convent community. A humble and honorable vocation indeed, and is to be admired and revered.

In The Secret of the Glass, the daughters are faced with the reality that when the elder sister marries, there will be no dowry money left to ‘purchase marriages’ for those daughters that remain.The main significance that the imposed dowry system imparts is the fact that women were essentially treated as a piece of property, to be bought and sold according to social status. In Dante’s Paradiso, he observed the contrasts between his time and that of the times of his great-great-grandfathers. The great-great-grandfather had not yet seen the high inflation of the dowry, and therefore was not privy to that sinking feeling of despair when a daughter was born. Yet, if you were of a wealthy, noble patrician family, more than one daughter could be provided for with the dowry system which would maintain the family’s higher social status. Through wills the wealthy would bequeath money to specific convents, or to a female family member for contributions to their dowry.

What is most mind-boggling is the reason why the dowries inflated so much, as there is no clear and specific reason for this. There were a myriad of forces at work from governmental loans and debts that were high, small costs of living and materials increases, and the inevitable supply and demand of the market with which to secure a future within a patrician family. In regards specifically to Venice, there seems to have been a favorable environment to increase and enourage the high dowries within the ruling class, with a widening circle of dowry contributors to promote lineage.  In Rome and Venice, when a father died, the sons were to take care of the daughters and the dowry; if there were no sons, the dowry responsibilites went back up the line through the male ascendants of the deceased father. When there are absolutely no male family members to be found, it is possible that the maternal side of the family would be responsible to help provide a dowry for the daughter.

Imagine yourself.. a second sister.. there is no money left over to buy you a suitable marriage. Before you are born, this fate has been set for you. When the time comes for you to grow up, you are sent to a convent to live out the rest of your days, regardless of what the extent of your devotion to God is. You have no hope for children of your own, to know the carnal knowledge of a man, never to have a home to call your own, no items of worth, not many secret treasures, no books other than the bible, seeing your family only sparingly… Such is the predicament for Sophia’s sisters in Morin’s The Secret of the Glass, unless Sophia figures out a way to change the sands of time.

In celebration of the Historical Fiction Bloggers Round Table event, I am offering up to one lucky USA winner my gently read advanced reader’s copy of The Secret of the Glass, as well as a handmade bookmark featuring some glass beads (made by me so don’t laugh openly), but you must answer this question:

What do you think you would prefer, if you were a young woman and perhaps in Sophia’s shoes, who is betrothed to a man who she detests? Could you choose to become cloistered as a nun for the rest of your life almost in a state of poverty and neglect (depending on the convent)? Or would you prefer to at least have some material comforts in life and choose to marry someone who is horrid to you and treats you as a piece of furniture?

1 entry: Please provide your email address in your comment. (mandatory answer to question!!)
For extra +1 entry, follow this blog.
For extra +2 entries, put this graphic linking to this post in your blog’s sidebar:

Bookmark and Book Giveaway!
Contest ends March 6, 2010.

Open to USA addresses only.

Don’t forget to visit the HF Bloggers Round Table main site for a complete listing of events, from reviews, giveaways to more creative posts!
New posts for today include Book Review by Susie at All Things Royal and a new set of interview questions with the author Donna Russo Morin also at the main site. There is also a look at The Courtier’s Secret, Donna Russo Morin’s previous novel set in the time of Louis XIV.



Filed under Donna Russo Morin, HF Bloggers Round Table, Venice

31 responses to “>Giveaway:HF Bloggers Round Table: The Secret of the Glass Event: Marriage or Cloister?

  1. >Oh I would love to win,,,please enter me,,thanks again..Devonhanna_563 at msn dot comI am already a follower and I will add the link under great giveaways..

  2. >Hi Marie (don't enter me- obvioulsy! But hey, I wouldn't mind the beads though;)Your post is incredibly interesting and iformative…if not extremely sad as well. I have to say to you that it wasn't too long ago that the situation still existed-minus the convent..My Mom who is now in her 80's, remembers many daughters of nobility being sent off to convents..it was a common thing. Also, if you had several sons, one had to become a priest…Venice, although extremely radical in some cases, went totally puritan in others..go figure. One thing's for sure- money and religion at the heart of it all.What would I do..good question- and I swear I have no answer. I think I would probably marry though, since I would at least have some contact with the outer world, and the chance to find love in my children..and in my prayers, I'd probably wish my horrible husband would be taken real soon! There is one thing though, let's not forget that no matter how bonding these marriages might have been, Venice had an extreme sense of family- so it would be unlikely that all ties with blood relations would be cut..so there"s some solace in that- you'd still be in contact with your family. Wow- what a post! sorry for rambling and taking up the whole comments page!Great, research and writing Marie:)

  3. >I never knew this part of the story was so poignant. I knew Sophia's sisters (especially the one closest to her in age) was jealous that that Sophia wanted them to marry as well, but reading your words has helped me understand the desperate situation they were in.I really couldn't say what my mindset would be, honestly. I'm not religious, so that wouldn't be an option for me now, but if I were a 17th century woman I would be of a different mind.Don't enter me, but I'd really like to see the beads. Send me a pic 😉

  4. >And my answer to the posed question is that I do think I would choose to marry. At least I would prefer the possibility of children, but yet, given the circumstances of those times I may not want to subject any of my offspring to the same type of sadness that would be endured in an unhappy alliance. A tough question, if I do say so myself =)

  5. >It always amazes me that throughout history and into today a percentage of men have treated and do treat women so callously.Where would the next generation come from if not for women. We certainly are more than brood mares despite this line of thought.I suspect that I would have chosen marriage because it was a dangerous time and husbands could die and at least there would be a chance for a better match the second time around. If stuck in a bad convent – you were stuck for life.Thanks for a thought provoking post.kaiminani at gmail dot com

  6. >Excellent creative post Marie. It is so sad that women didn't have any other options. If they were in a lower social status they could be maids, vendors, even marry who they chose, they didn't have the restriction of the dowrys or famalie titles and status to be concerned about. It would be horrible to think your future would be so restricted and quite. Not your own.

  7. >Don't enter me – but I think I would definately choose to marry – I don't think I could handle having such a structured religious life. Like Lucy said, at least as a married woman you would have some life.

  8. >Would love a chance at a copy of this book.If I was in Sophia's shoes I'd rather be cloistered than be a piece of property and treated bad. I'd don't think the material benefits would outweigh the bad treatment of women. Although, if she was a strong enough and smart enough person to endure for awhile, she could probably poison him slowly and not have to put up with the abuse.+1 alterlisa AT yahoo DOT com+1 follow on Goggle connect+2 linked pic to blog sidebar http://lisaslovesbooksofcourse.blogspot.com/

  9. Sue

    >I would love to have a chance at this book! Thanks for the giveaway.s.mickelson at gmail dot com

  10. >Honestly I think I would do neither and run off somewhere. I would rather live in poverty than be unhappy with my life. I would rather live in a cave than become nun.I had no idea there were 2 different types of vows. The dowry system was so so messed up. Great post Maire woo whoo I learned something today.

  11. >This aspect of the novel was particularly sad to me. Whenever I read books that deal with the theme of marriage in this nature I become so frustrated for the suffering female protagonist.Thanks for shedding some light on this issue, Marie! I think I would choose marriages for the same reasons you and Lucy mentioned. Once I was married and assured a semi-normal life (compared to a convent, at least!), I might rebel like Lizzy said, and find a way out if my husband was too terrible to bear.

  12. >This is my first time on this blog, and I loved this thoughtful post. As a Rumer Godden fan, a part of me always found the idea of cloistered life a bit romantic — of course, the settle of Godden's book and this one are *very* different and cloistered life wouldn't have been as meditative, I think. That said, I think I'd do as many of the other commenters have said and choose marriage in hopes of some freedom — or at least, variation with the possibility of children and running a household, etc.I've 'subbed' to this blog as well as a few others that you link to — I look forward to reading more! If possible, I'd also like to be entered in the giveaway: thesibylqueen at gmail.com. Thanks!

  13. >no need to enter me, babe. I'm dropping in to say thanks for the e-mail. I've got this posted at Win a Book for you.

  14. >I would probably marry the man….in that day and time it would have just been the right choice for me.ykatrina at hotmail dot com

  15. >I've entered to win this book at another blog, but I thought I would answer. I think I would choose convent. The thought of being bound to a man who was hateful towards me is not a very good plan. I would rather closet myself away tending the convent gardens and studying the words of the Holy Bible, studying Latin and educating those in my knowledge. I think would accept the poverty

  16. >I think I would choose to marry and have children. And…I would hope to change my husband for the better!mtakala1 AT yahoo DOT com

  17. >blog followermtakala1 AT yahoo DOT com

  18. >I come from a background where dowry is given for girls upto date but it is thank god not a do or die situation at all. I can imagine however a situation like this taking place. I think I would prefer marriage even it was ill suited to a religious life though!I am a follower of your blog, I do not live in the United States but I do have a mailing address I use there (a friend). If that makes me eligible for this contest, please include me – the book is hugely attractive and my gosh those beads would be a great bonus!mystica123athotmaildotcom

  19. >+1 I would have to become a cloistered nun. I would not be able to live with someone I detested. +1 Blog follower. :)+2 Graphic and linked back here in my sidebar (http://www.rundpinne.com)knittingmomof3 (AT) gmail (DOT) com

  20. >This follower would become a nun. The idea of living with such a detestable man would drive me into a convent as fast as my feet could carry me!teabird17 AT yahoodotcom

  21. >This is a very hard question – I am not sure I could take the rigors and the routine of being in a convent. I think I would marry the man and hope for the best. Children would be an added benefit of the marriage.I am a follower.tmrtini at gmail dot com

  22. jan

    >Please enter me, can provide us address,thx..thehighflyer3(at)hotmail(dot)com

  23. >Which is the lesser of two evils – poverty or an abusive marriage in an era when the husband had absolute control? I would have to go with the poverty of the convent. At least you can find solitude and safety, even if you are hungry and wearing rags. I am already a follower. jmchshannon (at) gmail (dot) com

  24. >Sounds great.I would probably become a nun. As hard and lonely as that life might be I think I could handle it better than trying to share a life with someone I hated.I'm a follower.Thanksrebecca.bradeen(at)verizon(dot)net

  25. >Good grief. I am so glad I'm not in this situation. I think I would enter a convent.I follow through google.sliugarcia@gmail.com

  26. >Hey Marie I would love a chance toe enter and read this book! In response to your question I would become a nun. I'd rather devote myself to God then be devoted to a husband whot treats me like furniture! Thats just my opinion. Plus it might pay off in the afterlife who knows? But I loved your review and heres my email:Hot87Tamale(at)aol(dot)comO and I'm also already a follower Yay! Thanks again for the review!

  27. This comment has been removed by the author.

  28. >It's hard to say how I would feel if I lived back then. I would probably feel the same as Sophia. However, going by my mindset now, I know how much I love being a mother and I would want to have children so I would probably choose the marriage over the convent.Thanks for the giveaway!+2 I posted this on my right sidebar: http://thetruebookaddict.blogspot.com/miller4plusmore(at)bellsouth(dot)net

  29. This comment has been removed by the author.

  30. >I am a follower.Knowing how horrible conditions were at some convents, it would be a difficult choice. That being said, I think those conditions would be preferable to being at the mercy of a man who could make your life a living hell. librarypat AT comcast DOT net

  31. >I'd choose marriage. At least you could hope for children, and the possibility that your husband would get "bored" with you & ignore you for the rest of your lives together. I'm a followergevin13{at}gmail{dot}com

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