My Review:In the vein of The Virgin Suicides, a dazzling debut novel about four girls inexplicably named Guinevere, all left by their parents to be raised by nuns, and the year in which their tightly knit Guinevere family implodes when four comatose soldiers arrive.
Vere, Gwen, Ginny, and Win come to The Sisters of the Supreme Adoration by different paths, delivered into the rigorous and austere care of Sister Fran. Each has their own complicated, heartbreaking story that they safeguard. But together they are the all powerful and confident The Guineveres, bound by the extraordinary coincidence of their names and girded against the indignities of their plain, sequestered lives. Together, they learn about God, history, and, despite the nuns' protestations, sex. They learn about the saints whose revival stories of faith and pain are threaded through their own. But above all, they plot their futures, when they can leave the convent and finally find a true home. But when four comatose soldiers, casualties of the War looming outside, arrive at the convent, The Guineveres’ friendship is tested in ways they never could have foreseen.
In The Guineveres, Sarah Domet navigates the wonder and tumult of girlhood, the families we yearn for and create. In prose shot through with beauty, Domet intertwines the ordinary and the miraculous, as The Guineveres discover what home really means.
I wanted to read this because of its comparison to The Virgin Suicides and its references to Saints. And while there are definite similarities to The Virgin Suicides, and there are whole chapters devoted to Saints, something was missing from this one. The book is ostensibly about the Guineveres -- four teenagers named Guinevere (who go by Gwen, Win, Ginny and Vere, who is the narrator) growing up in a convent that is also an orphanage for girls during World War II. The book is told in Chapters: some of which are wholly devoted to an individual Saint, some of which are devoted to each of the Guineveres' revival (the word used to described the story behind each girl coming to the convent) and the majority of which describe the daily life of the Guineveres in the convent. One of my issues with this book was that, although the chapters devoted to daily life in the convent are told in a present sense, there would be whole paragraphs and pages devoted to looking back at the incident. There didn't seem to be rhyme or reason to telling the story in a present tense but then also dropping in future details as if looking back. The tense changes jarred me. Overall, this was well written but definitely had an overwhelming air of despair and melancholy. Such hard lives for the Guineveres! Also, it took me a long time to get into this one -- I kept putting it down and really struggled through the first quarter. It did get better, though, but the ending was pretty odd.
I was the first Guinevere to arrive at the convent, the only Guinevere that summer when my mother left me there. Almost thirteen then, I shared my name with Saint Guinevere, who, at my very age, was martyred for her faith. Beheaded by a vengeful suitor after resisting his advances, she miraculously rose from the dead. She lived on as a nun for many years after, her head apparently functioning just fine. I could understand how she must have suffered--to have her head severed from her body, but then be forced to go on living. That's how I felt when my mother left me.