Title: The Convent
Author: Panos Karnezis
Release Date: November 8, 2010
Publisher: W.W. Norton & Co.
Genre: Literary Fiction
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
The convent of Our Lady of Mercy is in a remote part of Spain, difficult to access. This is the way the nuns prefer it, living their lives devoted to God. When an abandoned infant is found on the doorstep of the convent in a suitcase, the nuns are stunned. Against the wishes of some of the nuns, the Mother Superior, Sister Maria Ines, decides to keep the baby for her own and raise him in the convent.
The Convent is a very interesting piece of fiction that will thrill fans of literary fiction. Panos Karnezis has an amazing way with words that will leave readers stunned. From the very first line of this book – “Those whom God wishes to destroy he first makes mad” – the reader knows they are in for a literary feast with this novel. His words are haunting and evoke a longing in the reader, even if they aren’t quite sure what it is they are searching for. This beautiful, melodic prose, it’s enough to make the book stand proudly on its own two feet, yet there is so much more going on in this gorgeous novel.
The reader becomes invested in the character of Sister Maria Ines as the novel progresses. She has faced horrors in her past, and as a result, she sees the child as a miracle. The reader can’t help but sympathize with her as she demonstrates time and again how devoted she is to the infant. Even when she acts erratically, the reader’s heart is still with Sister Maria Ines. Karnezis does an exceptional job connecting his characters with the reader; the readers’ emotional investment in the book will keep them reading.
There is a sense of despair hanging over this entire novel. The reader knows that a storm is coming, and that it’s on a collision course with the convent. There is a sense of fatalism, knowing that something is coming, and that the characters might be able to change what is to come, but their actions have already been written and thus the bad will happen. That doesn’t mean it’s a depressing novel, just that there is a delicious gloominess hanging over the entire thing.
I was very impressed with Panos Karnezis’ The Convent and will be going back to read his earlier works. It’s a simple book, but it beautifully depicts the claustrophobic nature of convent life, as well as the dynamics of a group of women living together in close quarters. Fans of literary fiction and beautiful writing should not hesitate to pick this one up; it’s beautiful and surprisingly easy to read.