Sophie’s Fire is a delicious historical novel about an improbable Frenchwoman of the 19th century, Madeleine Sophie Barat, at one and the same time a mystic, an educational revolutionary, and an extraordinarily competent administrator whose reach during her lifetime spanned four continents and intersected with key figures and events of France and beyond. She is also a saint. Against a slice of history, meticulously researched, the author offers us a glimpse into the heart of this intriguing and complex woman with a deft and affectionate touch. Those who know Sophie’s life will delight in fresh insight; those encountering her for the first time will be amazed that such a thoroughly contemporary woman began her life’s work two hundred years ago and continues to influence hundreds of thousands today.
Kathleen Hughes, RSCJ, former Superior of the Society of the Sacred Heart in the U.S. Province and author of Living No Longer for Ourselves and Silent Voices, Sacred Lives
Living in a tumultuous time, vividly reconstructed here, Madeleine Sophie Barat improbably changed the world of women’s education. This child of a cooper from the village of Joigny took on the daunting task of founding a religious order and starting schools for girls as the French Revolution and its aftermath churned the society surrounding her. Though this is a work of fiction, there’s nothing imaginary about the attempts to sabotage the young woman and her mission that Solari so perfectly portrays. Sophie Barat survived and thrived, founding schools all over Europe and in America before her death and setting in place the framework for a worldwide network of extraordinary schools that have educated generations of Sacred Heart women inspired by this saint. Cokie Roberts, journalist and author of Founding Mothers and Ladies of Liberty
In this luminous book about the life of Sophie Barat, Constance Solari weaves together history and fiction into an exquisite tapestry that brings alive in full tones the founder of the Society of the Sacred Heart. Barat’s inner spirituality, her formidable intellect, her institutional activism, the geopolitics of her historical age – all find their proper place in this multifaceted portrait of an extraordinary woman. Robert Harrison, professor of French and Italian literature at Stanford University and author of Forests: The Shadow of Civilization, The Dominion of the Dead, and Gardens: An Essay on the Human Condition