Wednesday, March 3, 2021

"The Rebel Nun"

Marj Charlier began her writing career at daily and mid-size newspapers before joining the Wall Street Journal as a staff reporter. After twenty years in journalism, she pursued her MBA and began a second career in corporate finance. While she has published ten novels, The Rebel Nun is her first historical novel.

Charlier applied the Page 69 Test to The Rebel Nun and reported the following:
From page 69:
Marian threw back her head and laughed with an abandon I had never seen from anyone in the cloister, even during the happy days of Radegund’s tenure. I smiled even as I shushed her.

“Lebover will prohibit you from working in here if she hears you,” I whispered. “She hates joy.”

“Do you think God hates joy?” Marian asked, straightening out the laughter in her face and lowering her voice.

I smiled. “I am certain He does not.”

I wish that short-lived improvement in the goodwill and cheer at our monastery had made me optimistic about the future—my soul could have benefited from the respite—but a cynicism that colored my humors muddied even my best moods and especially my most anxious ones. I would be listening to the clever banter of my sisters, their heads bent over the stitches of their wool work, and feel a creeping gloom sneak up on me like the draft from an open door.

Maroveus avoided our monastery until a month after Marian arrived, which should have been a relief for all of us, but I never doubted he would return to refresh our misery. When he did come, early in March, blowing through the front door like a cold gale personified, he did not disappoint. He met with Lebover in the reception room, and the rest of us were ordered to stay away so that we would not hear their discussion.

Before then, Lebover could not have told him much about what was happening at the monastery, other than the fact of the arrival of Sister Marian. She was spending nearly all her time bedridden by her gout in her chamber. Near the end of his visit, Maroveus hailed Bertie to bring Marian to the reception room.
This page may not capture the entire plotline, and it may not be the most representative page in the book, but it does present a few main elements of the story. First, it shows the behaviors and attitudes of several main characters, in particular, the narrator (Clotild), Marian, Lebover, and Maroveus. It speaks to the cloud of despair that the nuns feel and their hope for more joyous days at the monastery. It tells us how worthless Lebover is and how much Maroveus craves power and creates misery. These are key themes to the plot. And by raising the question of whether God hates joy, the passage indicates this is a book about women who are seeking meaning in life—whether from religion or from a philosophy derived from personal experience.

Marian has been sent to the monastery for the remainder of her life because she violated a church council proclamation that women who were widowed by priests could not remarry. Her marriage, which had given her a new lease on life and joy, was annulled and she was condemned to the cloister. But despite that injustice, she brought her happy spirit with her. As we see throughout the novel, women are not given choices in life. Every woman in the monastery arrived not by volition, but by circumstance or coercion. This speaks to a major theme of the book: the few opportunities women in the sixth century had. They could be married and widowed (only once, if they married a priest), become a prostitute, or go to the nunnery. As our heroine seeks to gain independence and agency, she battles the church’s hegemony, misogyny, and cruelty. These aspects are all represented or hinted at in this short passage.
Visit Marj Charlier's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Rebel Nun.

--Marshal Zeringue