Top critical review
5 people found this helpful
Interesting idea but difficult to like the characters.
on 5 August 2012
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 and unpleasant. The story centres around three nuns preparing to leave the convent they had lived in for more than half a century. They were all old and were being offered alternative accommodation in care homes. The main character Sister Bernard who was ninety three and her fellow nun Sister Therese who was a young seventy year old, were caring for Sister Marie who was suffering from dementia, and whose main contribution to the story was her inability to hold her bladder, and her wind problems. The story progresses to give more detail of Sister Bernard's younger days and in particular her relationship with a German soldier during the Nazi occupation of France. This relationship led her to betray a fellow nun(she did so, it would appear, not by accident but quite deliberately to impress him, and to help further his career) and caused the death of her best friend and two other villagers, one being a sixteen year old boy who had been brutally tortured prior to being shot. None of this seemed to penetrate the conscience of Sister Bernard whose main concern regarding the event was the loss to her, of her lover. It would appear that Sister Bernard was not overly intelligent( for which of course she could be completely forgiven) also she seemed to be suffering from some kind of mental disorder (she heard God talking to her, and he was not a particularly kind God). What I found hard to forgive about her was her complete lack of empathy. Her German lover sexually abused a child in the church, in such a disgusting manner in front of Sister Bernard and she appeared to think nothing of it, and yet she held a grudge against poor demented Sister Marie for having thrown some flowers away before they wilted some forty years earlier. Unfortunately there was nothing to like about her, or her fellow nuns for that matter. Sister Therese did not want to go into the home with Sister Bernard (and who would blame her) but felt obliged to stay with her so as not to leave her on her own with strangers. She wanted to live with an old friend instead, this friend(another not too pleasant character) deliberately setup the ninety three year old Bernard with the villagers who still hated her, in order for Sister Therese to find out about Sister Bernard's past and enable her to abandon Bernard with a clear conscience. Later in the book when Bernard was unwell and Therese was questioned by the doctor, she said " I do not know her that well" which seems to me a sad reflection on Therese's relationships with her fellow nuns, that she could live in close proximity to someone for fifty three years and not know them that well. It seems that this convent in France was devoid of any real human love and was populated by narcissistic people whose relationship with God seemed to preclude them from any real feeling towards their fellow humans.