A first novel whose tone echoes that of Jeffrey Eugenides s The Virgin Suicides This phenomenal, character-driven story is mesmerizing. -- Library Journal (starred review)
To four girls who have nothing, their friendship is everything: they are each other s confidants, teachers, and family.Read more...
A first novel whose tone echoes that of Jeffrey Eugenides s The Virgin Suicides This phenomenal, character-driven story is mesmerizing. --Library Journal (starred review)
To four girls who have nothing, their friendship is everything: they are each other s confidants, teachers, and family. The girls are all named Guinevere Vere, Gwen, Ginny, and Win and it is the surprise of finding another Guinevere in their midst that first brings them together. They come to The Sisters of the Supreme Adoration convent by different paths, delivered by their families, each with her own complicated, heartbreaking story that she safeguards. Gwen is all Hollywood glamour and swagger; Ginny is a budding artiste with a sentiment to match; Win s tough bravado isn t even skin deep; and Vere is the only one who seems to be a believer, trying to hold onto her faith that her mother will one day return for her. However, the girls are more than the sum of their parts and together they form 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.
The nuns who raise them teach the Guineveres that faith is about waiting: waiting for the mail, for weekly wash day, for a miracle, or for the day they turn eighteen and are allowed to leave the convent. But the Guineveres grow tired of waiting. And so when four comatose soldiers from the War looming outside arrive at the convent, the girls realize that these men may hold their ticket out.
In prose shot through with beauty, Sarah Domet weaves together the Guineveres past, present, and future, as well as the stories of the female saints they were raised on, to capture the wonder and tumult of girlhood and the magical thinking of young women as they cross over to adulthood."
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-08-29
- Reviewer: Staff
Four girls named Guinevere, “a coincidence that bound us together from the moment we met,” arrive within two years of one another at the Sisters of the Supreme Adoration convent, in Domet’s debut novel. The story is narrated by Vere, looking back to when she “was a sensitive young girl, a girl who still had faith,” but Vere sees her own story as so bound up with the other Guineveres, she commonly uses the first-person plural. There is Ginny, “a delicate creature”; Winnie, funny and down to earth; and Gwen, the last to arrive and the most worldly of the four, a pretty girl who longs to get out, who devises a plan for them to escape through a hollowed-out float during the convent’s annual festival. The Guineveres’ punishment for their failed escape is three months of service in the convent’s convalescent ward, to “reawaken sense of gratitude,” in the words of Father James. When a group of comatose and unidentified soldiers, severely injured in a foreign war, are brought in, the Guineveres develop a joint fantasy that the boys will wake and the girls will get to return home with them. Domet’s concept is strong, an homage to The Virgin Suicides with its group narration and fixation on trapped teenage girls. Though the story is a bit too long, Domet deftly weaves in the girls’ individual stories and the stories of female saints into her structure, making this a satisfying read on multiple levels. (Oct.)
Four girls, one name
Readers have long been fascinated by stories of women apart from the world, from 19th-century tales of girls imprisoned in convents to more contemporary gems like Ann Patchett’s The Patron Saint of Liars (1992). Sarah Domet’s debut novel, The Guineveres, is a wonderful entry into this rich tradition.
Four girls, all improbably named Guinevere, are left by their parents with the Sisters of the Supreme Adoration. The convent, at first, seems similar to an all-girls high school, complete with cutely named factions. The titular girls (known as Vere, Gwen, Ginny and Win) initially bond over their shared name as well as their desire to escape. It turns out, however, that the convent is not unlike the real world. The girls experience friendship and romance, tragedy and betrayal.
The Guineveres is mainly narrated by the more reserved Vere, who tells the story as an older woman looking back, and Domet deftly handles this retrospective voice. Brief chapters on the lives of various female saints imbue The Guineveres with a broader sense of the adversity women have faced over the centuries. All the while, Domet sustains a sense of humor. “Who’s the patron saints of patron saints?” Win quips at one point.
At times sacred, occasionally profane, The Guineveres is a heavenly read from an author worth watching.