Posted by Merry Mao on October 26th, 2010
Title: The Convent
Author: Panos Karnezis
Publisher: Norton, November 2010
Summary: The setting for this new novel by Panos Karnezis is a 16th century nunnery in the Spanish Sierra. There are only 6 nuns living at Our Lady of Mercy in the early 1920’s when a newborn baby is left on the steps of the convent. Of the six, only two are eager to keep the baby. The Mother Superior, Sister Maria Ines, believes the baby is God’s way of letting her know that her past sins have been forgiven and that his arrival on their doorstep is a miracle. Sister Beatriz is happy to help Sister Maria Ines with the baby in any way she can. The Mother Superior’s maternal instincts kick into high gear but are accompanied by an increasing paranoia. She begins to see almost everyone and everything as a threat to the precious child she has named Renato. It doesn’t help that one of the nuns, Sister Ana, believes the baby was sent by Satan himself. Sister Ana’s suspicions are reinforced as she witnesses the changes in the Mother Superior’s behavior. The mystery of the baby’s parentage and his fate are revealed slowly and deliberately in this sparse novel.
The main character in this novel is certainly Sister Maria Ines. There is very little said about most of the other characters in this story, including the baby. Her obsessive love for the baby, caused by her desperate need to be forgiven, becomes a character of its own. Though the ending doesn’t come as much of a surprise, it is heartbreaking none the less. This is a story of promises made and promises broken, and the price paid for both.
Who will like this book? Readers of historical fiction.
Recommended by: Sue, Circulation Coordinator