Obedience by Jacqueline Yallop

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Obedience by Jacqueline Yallop

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Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Louise Laurie
Reviewed by Louise Laurie
Summary: An elderly nun called Sister Bernard is being relocated from her beloved convent in rural France. This forced move sees her looking back on her life which includes some risque and rather shocking episodes.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 320 Date: August 2011
Publisher: Atlantic Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0857891013

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The story opens with a much younger Sister Bernard - no more than a girl really. The daily lives of the nuns is regulated, with long hours for prayer, meditation and solitude. Everyone is housed, fed and watered adequately and that's as far as it goes. No little luxuries to speak of. Nothing to temper the harshness and the silence. Visits from family members are forbidden also. However, the young Sister Bernard appears to not only be coping very well with all of this but even embracing it. She doesn't grumble or complain about anything. However, even although she may appear saintly she is human, just like the rest of us and temptation does come along in the shape of a young man.

He's a soldier. A German solider doing his job in occupied France. Along with his comrades, he decides to have a bit of fun at the nuns' expense - and Sister Bernard is singled out. She will live to regret all this unwanted attention from a virile member of the opposite sex. Things take an unexpected and rather nasty turn which results in such a momentous event that the locals talk about it for years afterwards. But Sister Bernard remains in the loving arms of her convent.

The chapters then start to alternate between the past and the present. Currently only three elderly nuns now call the convent their home. It is falling down around them and there is no money for maintenance etc. Times have changed and the trio of nuns need to change also. But it's hard when you're in your eighties and nineties. Basic, residential accommodation nearby awaits. Genteel poverty, if you like.

Yallop tells us of the nuns and their aches and pains: the creaking knees, arthritic hands etc - all the visible signs of getting older. But regardless, they all carry out their daily duties with conviction. And as each of them packs their meagre possessions ready for the move, it prompts them all, but especially Sister Bernard, the central character, to reflect back on her long and not uneventful life. And some parts may surprise, or even shock. Yallop gives it all to us in glorious technicolour and my heart went out to Sister Bernard.

We see a woman trying very hard to live a decent, God-fearing life. But things come along to tempt, to poison, to corrupt, to confuse. Call it real life if you like. And as dark and evil deeds are done against Sister Bernard, I couldn't believe just how meek and mild she was. Or was she?

I found Yallop's style to be flowing and her tone sensitive and in keeping with the whole convent/nun/religion slant. She has a nice line in storytelling so that even when the most shocking facts are revealed to the reader, it's all the more shocking wrapped up in everyday prose. This is a book which concentrates on human emotions and human weaknesses. It's also a moving portrait of a nun's life throughout the decades. Recommended.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag. We also have a review of Kissing Alice by Jacqueline Yallop.

If this book appeals then you might like to try The Wrong Blood by Manuel de Lope.

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Buy Obedience by Jacqueline Yallop at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Obedience by Jacqueline Yallop at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Obedience by Jacqueline Yallop at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Obedience by Jacqueline Yallop at Amazon.com.

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