Review: Obedience

Thank you to Netgalley and Penguin Books, I was able to read this in advance of its January 31 publication date.

Obedience is (taken from Goodreads) set in contemporary and World War II France, this is the story of Sister Bernard: her forbidden love, her uncertain faith, and her guilt- ridden past.

A once -bustling convent in the South of France is closing, leaving behind three elderly nuns. Forced, for the first time, to confront the community that she betrayed decades ago, Sister Bernard relives her life during the war.

At thirty, Sister Bernard can hear the voice of God-strident, furious, and personal. When a young Nazi soldier, a member of the German occupying forces, asks her to meet him in the church in secret one evening, she agrees. And so begins the horrifying and passionate love affair that will deafen the heavens and define her life, tempting her into duplicity. Obedience is a powerful exploration of one woman’s struggle to reconcile her aching need to be loved with her fear of God’s wrath

Unfortunately, and in my opinion (because that’s what these reviews are right? Our own opinion…) this is not a powerful tale at all. It leaves the reader quite confused, and with far too many unanswered questions. There is no historical background or build up to Sister Bernard, her past or why she became a nun, the community that she betrayed. There is no passionate love affair, he made a bet with his fellow soldiers and simply continued to use Sister Bernard. That she felt adoring love for him, does not constitute a passionate love affair to me.

It is an oddly written story that fell short of my expectations. I feel like I have to apologize for that…because I didn’t like it, I’m sorry? It did not hold my interest at all, and it had such great potential based on the description!

The book opens immediately with the story of Sister Bernard at the convent occupied by German soliders. And when I say it opens immediately, I mean it. There is no real date provided, no history or explanation as to why the German soliders are there, no description of Sister Bernard at all. Actually, there is no description given to anything at all in this story.  It seems to start right in the middle it. I kept checking to make sure I was on the right page, that this story did indeed only have 288 pages and yes, I was on Chapter 1. It felt as though I interrupted something in the middle of a private conversation.

Chapter 2 starts in much the same way. (The alternating chapters are supposed to be WWII France and Contemporary France) And Oh! All of a sudden Sister Bernard and the 2 other remaining nuns are now in serious old age and are off to a diocese nursing home. It does not give us any real time frame, no information as to why they are closing the convent, why they are leaving…it just seemed all so bizarre..to not be given any descriptive background info on anyone.

Characters just appear on the page, and some appear and are never mentioned again. Who is Marie? How about Claude? What about Therese? And who is Veronique all of a sudden?? People just popped in out of nowhere and the reader is given no descriptive details at all.

I’m so disappointed and I’m giving it 2 stars. How unfortunate as I was really intrigued by this story. 😦

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