This is a story about four girls, all named Guinevere. They arrive within 2 years of each other at the Sisters of the Supreme Adoration convent. Each Guinevere has her own story as to how she came to the convent. But together they fit. They are ‘The Guineveres’.
The plot is the story of The Guineveres wanting to leave the convent. They build a float and hideaway on it but are caught by Sister Fran. And they are each subjected to punishment by caring for those in the sick ward. The sick ward mostly consisted of the old. Then arrive five soldiers, who can’t be identified and are comatose.
One day, one of the soldiers wakes up and identifies himself. His parents are summoned and he is sent home with them. And they take Ebbie along with them. Ebbie is one of the convent’s girls, who would have been sent out when she turned 18, but her escape came in the form of a soldier who woke from a coma and she is able to leave earlier.
This reaffirms The Guineveres belief in miracles and they plan their escape through these soldiers. Each decides to claim one of them, care for each of their boys. And patiently wait their turn to leave the convent. How the story unravels after this is very interesting and would be a spoiler, so not going into that.
Sarah Domet’s four Guineveres, have nothing in common but their names. There is Vere, who takes us along on their story. Vere is the one who has been at the convent the longest, who has the most faith. Then came Ginny, frail and sensitive with an artist’s soul. The third was Win, the most sensible. The last one to join them was Gwen, the beauty and she knows it.
As each Guinevere came into her life, Vere learns something about life and about herself. She understands and feels for the others in her life. As the story unfolds, we see that each Guinevere goes through change. Their mutual bond changes with time.
They come together, in the beginning, to form a familial unit, but as the story progresses they each have only themselves. The moment when Vere understands that she only has herself to count on was heartbreaking. Even in the secluded confines of the convent, life manages to teach Vere about selfishness, conceit, misfortune, and love. She learns each lesson that life teaches with the same open mind that she has for her lessons from the Sisters.
The Guineveres is Sarah Domet’s first novel and is a good one. She portrays her characters and plots brilliantly. Whether it is Gwen or Sister Fran or even Lottie, you understand them. You can actually see them during confession or just going about their duties. You feel for the girls when you read their stories, about how they ended up at the convent. You can picture it with a clarity and empathise with the characters. The novel also has chapters on Saints and that is beautiful prose as well. The Guineveres is a very well written book that way.