Friday, February 3, 2012


How do you solve a problem like Sister Bernard? Now 90, she fell from grace 60 years ago taking others with her and has lived her life like a penance ever since.
In Obedience, by Jacqueline Yallop, Sister Bernard’s story unfolds in a tantalizingly measured manner. Going back and forth between World War 2 and the present day we see the Sister’s downfall and the effect it had on the rest of her life and on those around her. At the start of Obedience Sister Bernard is one of the three nuns left in the once busy convent where they have spent most of their lives. The convent is no longer needed and will be closed so the elderly nuns are heading for retirement.

At age 30 Sister Bernard unknowingly became the target of a cruel wager between several occupying German soldiers. Their bet involved her seduction and it ended with her infidelity to her vows and a member of the resistance and the loss of God’s presence in her daily life. Ever since she was a young girl Sister Bernard had heard the voice of God in her head but when she betrayed her vows and her community that voice was lost to her. She has spent the intervening years longing for the return of her lover and her God.

In Sister Bernard Yallop has developed a very interesting and not always likeable character.  She is an anti-hero. She is a participant in her downfall and a victim of it.  She is a simple, uneducated woman who is often viewed as stupid by her fellow sisters. This leads one of her fellow retirees, Therese, to feel duty bound to stay with Sister Bernard in retirement until Therese is made aware of Bernard’s past.

Obedience is a powerful, seductive read that touches on among other things: aging, dishonesty, love, loneliness and duty. Jacqueline Yallop has used her gifts for good. Her Obedience is a well constructed, polished, intensely discussion worthy novel.

P.S. The Cover? Gorgeous.

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