Top positive review
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'a luminous novel which explores the nature of love, forgiveness and destiny'
on 28 March 2013
A truly beautiful novel set in an Irish convent school just before World War I, and focussing principally on the senior character - Mother Superior- and the youngest, 6 year old Anna Murphy, sent there to avoid her parents' unhappy marriage.
Gradually the nun's history and reason for taking vows is explained; and as the years go by she overcomes her early loneliness for her home in Belgium. Meanwhile Anna too is shaped by extraneous events...
Gives a great sense of a largely happy community, but Kate O'Brien can relate sad events too, so movingly, and yet with hope. I was particularly struck by Reverend Mother's words of comfort to a bereaved member of the convent:
'It is natural for us all to imagine that the moment of death is frightening and lonely, if we are aware of it, which few are, perhaps. But so may be - if we could exercise our imaginations more extensively - the moment of birth. We know nothing, remember nothing, of the conditions of sensibility of the newly born, except that the immortal soul is present. But whatever the ordeal of entrance into life, it was brief and most of us are glad to have been born. So, too, with the moment of death. Whatever it holds, it is brief - and you and I know that, for those who have tried to be good, it is a gateway to perfect happiness.'