Friday, 20 May 2011

The Convent by Panos Karnezis

The story is set in an isolated convent, I think some time around the 1930s. The five nuns who live there have very little contact with the outside world. One of the nuns goes to the city for supplies each week, and their only visitor is the bishop, who visits once a month. Then one day a new born baby is found at the steps to the convent.

It is quite a dark tale. The arrival of a baby is usually such a happy event, but this child is the innocent cause of a schism in the group. The Mother Superior, Sister Maria Ines, immediately takes charge of the him. She sees him as a reward for her years of sacrifice to the convent. She became a nun to atone for something in her past which she saw as a great sin. The baby is a signal to her that God has forgiven her. She guards him jealously, refusing to let the other women help take care of him.

Opposing Sister Maria Ines is Sister Ana. Ana is a clever and ambitious woman. She longs for other people to recognise her talents and their failure to do so has made her bitter. She sees the arrival of the child as the work of the devil.

The atmosphere at the convent becomes more fevered and madness threatens. I found it a very tense novel. The baby triggers the unravelling of the community. Secrets are uncovered and tragedy looms.


  1. Hi Joanne,

    I have a few questions: was this published in the past as well as being set in the past? And is a translated work? And which country is it set in? It's a really interesting premise for a story.

    And I just thought I'd take this chance to mention something fairly popular on twitter which I haven't seen covered on any book blog yet. Guardian Books has set up a flickr group and invited people to upload photos of their bookshelves at The results are very interesting.

  2. It's a recent book Karyn, only published last year. The author is Greek but has lived in England since 1992, I can't find anything about a translator so I think he writes in English. I don't think the country is specified, my first thought was Greece, but the names sound more Spanish, so maybe Spain or Portugal.
    Thanks for the link about the Guardian, I'll take a look, I love looking at other people's books.