by Jacqueline Yallop
reviewed by Anna Sheen
Sister Bernard is one of the last nuns left in her convent, a relic of a different time. As progress comes to the small provincial French town the plan is to renovate the convent into a holiday house and the nuns are being moved to a home for the elderly. Yet Sister Bernard has a harder time coming to terms with her displacement than most. The darkest and most wonderful moments of her life played out within those walls after a bet between a group of Nazi soldiers resulted in an illicit affair between herself and one of the men. Sister Bernard falls for the mysterious Schwartz and she would go to any length to keep him, including betraying her fellow nuns. Told with beautiful, simple prose this heartbreaking novel leads you through the lives of people changed and ruined by one woman’s desire for the unattainable. This is Jacqueline Yallop’s second novel, the first being Kissing Alice which received an Honourable Mention from the 2010 Orange Prize judges. Read it if you loved Gilead by Marilynne Robinson or The Reader by Bernard Schlink.