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Obedience [Hardcover]

Jacqueline Yallop
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
RRP: 12.99
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Book Description

1 Aug 2011
"In a convent in rural France, three ageing nuns remain. Cloistered within her failing faith and her failing body, Sister Bernard navigates each day by the simple markers domesticity; but when the convent is threatened with closure the soft threads of piety and daily existence unravel. What lies beneath are Sister Bernard's terrible memories of wartime disgrace; of a German soldiers' bet turning lust into a love that deafened the heavens, of the full horror of both war and motherhood, and of a furious God who begun to sulk. Obedience is the story of a woman in a spinning world, and her attempts to keep her bearings. It draws its power from the grey spaces between guilt and innocence, the power of memory and how the aching need to love, and be loved, can cause good people to do terrible things."

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Books (1 Aug 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0857891014
  • ISBN-13: 978-0857891013
  • Product Dimensions: 14.9 x 22.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 497,556 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


`An intensely imagined novel about one of the defining questions of the century just past: where and how we choose to draw the line between innocence and guilt, ignorance and complicity. Obedience also asks us to consider what ghastly harm is committed in the name of love. It's rare to find a book that is seemingly so simple, but is really ambiguous and thought-provoking.'
--Hilary Mantel

About the Author

Jacqueline Yallop read English at Oxford and did her PhD in nineteenth century literature at Sheffield University. She has worked as the Curator for the John Ruskin Museum in Sheffield and writes on the Victorians. She is the author of the non-fiction work Magpies, Squirrels and Thieves and the novel Kissing Alice. She currently lives in France.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I liked this book, but sadly, not as much as I thought I would. I liked the concept of the elderly nuns in the decaying convent, I liked the looking back to the German occupation of France, I liked the idea of the nun loving a man and paying the price. I just didn't like Sister Bernard at all unfortunately. I just kept waiting for more............ I felt that there was more to be said about the sisters and the hierarchy at the convent, Mother Catherine in particular. I just felt sort of let down, as though there was 'unfinished business' when I'd finished the book. I like the whole 'secrets and lies' thing, but I just felt it needed more........ explanations, reasons, I don't know, it just didn't really work for me.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intense, moving and enigmatic 6 Aug 2011
By Amy J.
I loved this book! The central character, Sister Bernard, is fascinating and ultimately very engaging - portrayed as stupid and shut off from the world around her, in all kinds of ways, she is not the usual 'romantic heroine' by any means. Her story is beautifully told; it's very intense and moving and it carries the reader along through the years. It's a dark story, told with a detached, clear prose that I found unsettling, and the religious element is handled very subtly and well. The setting is lovely - you get a real sense of rural France, of war-time living in an occupied village. Generally I found it a sophisticated and thought-provoking book, a wise exploration of love and belief; very ambiguous and actually quite difficult to pin down.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Sad but Wise Novel 6 Oct 2011
By Sally Zigmond VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Three elderly nuns are the only ones left in a crumbling convent in rural France and are about to leave everything they know. Sister Maria has dementia and is taken to a nursing home where she soon dies. Sisters Teresa and Bernard are on their way to live out the rest of their lives together in a residential home for retired nuns and priests. But at the last minute, Teresa changes her mind and goes to live with an old friend, Corrine, leaving Bernard to face a bleak future alone.

Sister Bernard, obedient, unquestioning, perhaps a little inadequate, has a dark past. Everyone seems to know about it but it is never talked about having been swept under the carpet although a trip to the local village to commemorate the Armistice stirs up old hatreds for her act of betrayal during the German occupation. How could a woman of God have done such a thing?

The novel develops through chapters set in the past and the future through which slowly, Bernard's character and her actions are revealed or, rather, implied. For this is a novel where readers are required to work things out for themselves. We know nothing of the reasons why she took the veil or her parentage, although I believe her father was a deeply unpleasant man and that his was the basis for the voice Bernard assumes is that of God. Bernard constantly craves affection but never receives any which is why she naively falls in love with a German soldier who only pays attention to her because of a bet. Later on she suddenly stops hearing the Voice of God which, although constantly complaining and criticising, had hitherto given her life meaning and purpose. Despite its harshness, at least she was getting the attention she craved. When it is lost to her she is bereft.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Intense, Engrossing and Thought-Provoking 1 Sep 2012
We are in rural France, in a crumbling grey-stone convent inhabited by three elderly nuns as they make themselves ready to leave the building that has been their home for decades. Once an industrious and peaceful cloister of nuns of all ages, the numbers have dwindled over the years until only Sisters Bernard, Therese and Marie remain. The convent has been more than a home to these three elderly nuns: it has been their place of worship, their workplace and it has sheltered them from the more unpleasant aspects of the modern world; to leave the convent, therefore, is a huge undertaking, not least for our main protagonist, Sister Bernard, who is now in her nineties.

The story moves backwards and forwards in time as we read of how Sister Bernard entered the convent as a simple-minded young woman who had always heard the unremitting voice of God in her head and we learn that: "Even at thirty, in her prime, she was not beautiful. Her hair was already thin and her skin faded, her hands were wretched. No one spoke to her much, except God." And it is when Sister Bernard is at the so called prime of her life, when the convent is occupied by German troops, that she succumbs to the attentions of a young soldier (not a spoiler, we learn this very early on in the story) which results in an act of betrayal that has far reaching consequences.

This is a powerful, original and impressive novel that looks at the terrible damage that can be inflicted in the name of love. Jacqueline Yallop's prose flows elegantly but this isn't a smoothly beguiling story and if you want a light read for bedtime, then this isn't it. 'Obedience' is an unsettling, poignant and intense read which I found thought-provoking and engrossing and I am now interested in looking at her previous novel: Kissing Alice which also appears rather intriguing.

4 Stars.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Obediently, I finished it. 2 Oct 2011
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
When I began this novel, I anticipated awarding it a higher rating than I have given here. Yallop's prose is quite sparse but beautiful. She is able to create a strong sense of atmosphere. However, as I read further into the novel, I became frustrated by it as lthough I had a sense of place, my sense of the characters was not so strong. Sister Bernard, the nun who has the affair with a German soldier and commits the act of betrayal, never seems to be fully grasped. Why she committed this act is relatively unexplored - there is a suggestion that she does it so as to be indispensable to the soldier she loves, but this does not really explain such a terrible act. Likewise, why she so easily begins the affair with the soldier, and therefore disobeys her orders to God, is also unexplained. Even her relationship with God was a mystery - at the beginning, whilst she was hearing Him talk to her, she saw him as a nuiscance; almost like a stroppy child. Then, later, when He is no longer talking to her, she misses Him. Why is slightly unclear. What all of this ambiguity results in is that it is hard connecting with the characters of this novel. In turn, this means it is hard to care for them.

This was such a disappointing read. Although the prose was beautiful in parts, the characterisation let it down badly. Only a few days after finishing this book, already they have slipped from my mind.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Don't buy. Waste of time and money
Read her previous book Marlford pushed myself through it, however her prose was fairly good. That book was based on three old men during the first world world, in their 90's... Read more
Published 2 months ago by candlelight
5.0 out of 5 stars Obedience Jacqueline Yallop
My wife was very taken with this book, says she could'nt put it down, excellent in her view.
So, she will definitly be looking for more of the same:)
Published 20 months ago by CMH F
4.0 out of 5 stars A sad and thought provoking story
I,m not sure what prompted me to order this book as it is not my normal sort of choice but I found it an unusual and interesting read,and it stayed with me . Read more
Published 21 months ago by Mr. D. Turner
3.0 out of 5 stars Obedience or, perhaps, Disobedience
Yallop has a clear, well-detailed prose style, if rather self-conscious at times. The atmosphere of rural wartime France was well evoked. Read more
Published 21 months ago by Imogen
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read
This is a restrained, understated yet controlled novel containing subtle nuances. Quite haunting. Very good on religious fervour/zeal. Read more
Published 21 months ago by Maria Alm
2.0 out of 5 stars Interesting idea but difficult to like the characters.
This book was so depressing, there was nothing about it that endeared me to it. Whilst it was not badly written, the characters were all self centred, uncaring... Read more
Published 24 months ago by Peeta
4.0 out of 5 stars A Poignant Story
It took me a while to get into this book but I stuck with it and was rewarded with a poignant tale of the simplicity of Sr Bernard, the main character, and her entanglement with a... Read more
Published on 25 April 2012 by Kindler
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning
Wow. What a book! Written with such clarity that you live amongst the characters. The subject matter is a difficult one; particularly in the time that it is set but it is... Read more
Published on 24 April 2012 by K. Glaister
4.0 out of 5 stars Haunting
Sister Bernard seems a hard woman, but as her story progresses you realise what happened to her in her past played a huge part in making her what she became - a sad life, some... Read more
Published on 23 April 2012 by Ziggy Piggy
3.0 out of 5 stars what a waste of a life
Quite a sad story. You are aware that something tragic has happened. The story is quite slow and drawn out which adds to the sadness when sister Bernard discovers her illegitimate... Read more
Published on 31 Mar 2012 by S. J. Hughes
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