Discover the Novels Behind the Summer's New Movie Releases
352 pages; Penguin Classics
In The Little Hours, opening June 30, an Italian country servant stumbles onto a church filled with lusty, foulmouthed nuns (led by Alison Brie) and bumbling priests (played by Fred Armisen and John C. Reilly). Screenplay writer and director Jeff Baena's provocative tale gleefully plays with the more human side of religious leaders, and that's in keeping with his source: The Decameron. Written around 1350, The Decameron is a set of 100 tales about sex, religious hypocrisy and female empowerment that were shockingly open for their time. And though nobody drops f-bombs in the original, Boccaccio's comedy remains as provocative as ever: When one nun resists the idea of sleeping with a servant by arguing that she promised her virginity to God, her companion snaps, "Oh, what a lot of things are constantly being promised Him which He never actually gets!"