Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Convent; Panos Karnezis

Title: The Convent
Author: Panos Karnezis
Publication Year: 2010
Publisher: W.W. Norton Company
Edition: Hardcover
Source: Public Library
Date Completed: 1/1/2011
Setting: Our Lady of Mercy Convent - Spanish Sierra
Rating: 4/5 stars
Recommend: Yes

In a remote area somewhere on the Spanish Sierra lies the Our Lady of Mercy convent. The Catholic convent was built in the 1600s, and many years later (1930s) the school for novices has closed its doors because of lack of interest. Now only six nuns remain at the crumbling convent.  When a well worn suitcase with a baby boy inside is found on the steps on the convent steps, the delicate balance of convent life that the nuns have come to known is set to turmoil.

Of the six nuns, only two are hoping to keep and raise the mysterious newborn.  Mother Superior, Sister Maria Ines, names the baby Renato,  believes that his arrival is a sign from God.  She has a dark secret past, and is sure that the baby is God's way of letting her know that her past sins are forgiven.  Bit by bit the secrets are revealed, and when strange happenings begin to occur around the convent, the simple life of prayer and work is upset and the forces become divided.  One nun even believes that the baby was sent by Satan and, Mother Superior becomes paranoid that others at the convent do not have the best interest of the baby in mind.

Although none of the nuns talk about their past to each other, each has secret reasons for choosing to enter the convent. It seemed that none of the nuns chose convent life so that they could devote their life to God, but rather at the time, convent life for at least a few of these nuns seemed to have been their best option in life at the time.

Overall I liked this novel. I loved the setting, the mystery element (even though it was easy to unravel), and I liked the writing as well.  What disappointed me was the fact that the reader really only got to know two of the six nuns: Mother Superior and Sister Ana. The only male in the story was Bishop Estrada, and he was pretty much a non entity. The Convent is a short novel, just 212 pages, but I think the character development could have been expanded just a bit.   If you enjoy a quick read, a story with long buried secrets fully revealed, and an unambiguous ending, then I suggest you add this one to your list of future reads. It did make me research other stories about convent life, as the setting was terrific.


  1. Oh, I would love to read this one! Convent literature is like candy to me, and this seems like one that I would really love. I am off to see if I can find this one!! Thanks for the great review, Diane!

  2. I do enjoy reading about buried secrets, so this book sounds interesting to me.

  3. I wish they had worked on all the 6 stories. But I do like the setting!

  4. I like this sound of this one..secrets and works for me!!

  5. I got a copy of this one via bookmooch and am happy to see that you liked it. I do like reading about convent life - it just fascinates me.

  6. Having had my entire education in Convent from the age of 5 till 17 I have a soft corner for such stories. This would be nice reading for me.

  7. I love the cover! This sounds intriguing, I think I will check it out. Great review

  8. Too bad the story didn't go into the other nuns as well. A mystery in a convent sort of sounds like an interesting read for me - I will put on my reminder list!

  9. What a lovely book. I haven't read anything about nuns. The convent sounds an interesting setting.

  10. What an atmospheric cover! This sounds like a good mystery. Great review, Diane.

  11. I have a copy of this one that has been lingering on my TBR for months, and this review is the first I've seen. I hope to squeeze it in sometime this month!

  12. This one will go on my "maybe" pile. I love the setting and the premise but am worried if I can figure things out too easily or quickly.


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