Sister Bernard has lived in a grey-stone convent in rural France for more than seventy years.
In that time, a once youthful and lively cloister has gradually emptied, until only Bernard and two other nuns remain, a knot of survivors facing the creeping challenges of old age - ailing bodies and worn-thin friendships, slips of mind and, in their most secret moments, slips of faith.
Now, the halls will fall silent as the three women pack away their few possessions into wooden boxes, preparing to leave the building that has been their home for decades.
For the nuns, the closing of the convent means more than losing a home: the crumbling walls have shielded them from a changing modern world; for Sister Bernard, the quiet monotony of the religious life has protected her from memories of the past - the disgrace of when, as a young woman in wartime France, she became the unwitting prize of a cruel wager; when her devotion to God faded in the face of her need for a young Nazi soldier; and when she experienced the full horror and violence of war. Rich and complex, Obedience is a story of betrayal and divided loyalties; a powerful portrait of conflicted love, which goes beyond the veil to reveal a woman who feels adoration and fear, guilt and pride, and all too rarely, peace.
Sister Bernard is a remarkable creation: a woman torn between her irreconcilable private passions - her love for Christ and her blistered memories of physical desire.
- Format: Hardback
- Pages: 320 pages
- Publisher: Atlantic Books
- Publication Date: 01/08/2011
- Category: Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)
- ISBN: 9780857891013
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Review by karynwhite
I found this novel well-written, interesting and thought-provoking. I think the novel is about naivety, the abuse of power (the Nazi occupying forces, Mother Catherine, Corrine), one's faith and guilt.I felt empathy for Sister Bernard. She was used by other characters for their own gain and then shunned by various groups. She is portrayed as a naive and lonely character. I liked the way the novel went from past to present to slowly reveal different parts of Sister Bernard's life. I really enjoyed the symbolism of Sister Bernard losing God's voice from her head.I do recommend this novel.